Crowley claims current 911 system is costing time and lives
by Jess Berry
Jun 06, 2014 | 2135 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley with Public Advocate Letitia James (right)
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley with Public Advocate Letitia James (right)
President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association Stephen Cassidy outside of City Hall.
President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association Stephen Cassidy outside of City Hall.
Lives are being lost at the hands of the 911 Unified Call Taker (UCT) system, according to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who called on Mayor Bill de Blasio last week to immediately end the current system in favor of a more simplified call-taking protocol.

Crowley, who is chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, was joined outside City Hall by Public Advocate Letitia James and representatives from the city’s major fire and EMS unions to denounce UCT.

First implemented in 2009 as part of the City’s Emergency Communications Transformation Project (ECTP), UCT directs emergency calls to an NYPD call taker, who then takes down all relevant information before transferring the call to an FDNY dispatcher.

The system has led to issues with how quickly calls are responded to, inaccurate information and repeat questions being asked between the call taker and the emergency responder.

“Billions of dollars later, New York City is no safer now than it was before the implementation of this flawed pilot project,” Crowley said. “When a fire or medical emergency is called into 911, that call should be immediately connected to the appropriate fire or EMS dispatcher.

“Current UCT protocol wastes precious minutes and makes it harder for call takers, dispatchers and emergency responders to do their jobs in life-threatening emergencies where every second counts,” she said.

The FDNY and UCT system have been heavily criticized ever since the discovery that the Bloomberg administration was misleading when it reported average response times for EMS and FDNY.

Last year, the City Council passed a law requiring that the FDNY calculate response times from beginning to end. Prior to that, under the Bloomberg administration, the time it took to process the call was not counted in the overall response time.

Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said that responses for structural fires were reported to be about four minutes. It is now known that, on average, it takes about five minutes and 15 seconds.

For medical emergencies, the reported time was six minutes, but the reality is closer to nine minutes.

“If the New York City Fire Department, and they have for the last five years, don’t count the first two minutes because it’s good for them, it’s not good for you and your family,” Cassidy said. “It’s a lie. We caught them in a lie, they finally admitted it last year. A lie is a lie, it’s got to change now.”

In place of UCT, Crowley proposed that once a 911 call is answered, the call taker should determine if the emergency is for police, fire or EMS. The caller should then immediately be transferred to the appropriate dispatcher, who will then ask all questions relevant to the emergency.

In response, the de Blasio administration said that it would coordinate with the NYPD and FDNY on a comprehensive operational review of the existing 911 call-taking system.
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