NYC's Emergency Systems Plagued With Problems, 4 Failures in 3 Days

Without computers, operators had to write notes on paper, then hand those notes to runners, who took them to dispatchers

By Pei-Sze Cheng and Andrew Siff
|  Friday, May 31, 2013  |  Updated 4:58 PM EDT
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Computers for New York City's EMS dispatchers failed Friday, after the city's new 911 system had also crashed three times during its first week in operation, law enforcement sources and a union official tell NBC 4 New York.

911 call-takers used pen and paper to take down information on emergencies and run it over to EMS dispatchers for the computer outage, which lasted about 30 minutes at midday.

The NYPD said one computer terminal out of 300 had a problem, while the head of the EMT union, Israel Miranda, said all the computers went down.

The computer failure came after the city's revamped 911 system was plagued with problems during its first week in operation, and phone operators also had to use pen and paper to transmit information to dispatchers.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that system crashed for 16 minutes on Wednesday, and then again for six minutes the next day.

Miranda said the system failed a third time on Thursday.

Speaking about the first two outages, Kelly said all 911 calls were received, but "it was the link between the call takers and the dispatchers that had a problem."

"They thought they had it fixed at 3 a.m. this morning and then obviously this happened again so it has to be thoroughly examined," Kelly said.

The new computer system had been tested for six months, Kelly said, and Wednesday was its first day fully in operation.

Kelly said New Yorkers were not in danger during the outages.

The Bloomberg administration commissioned a $2 billion upgrade of the city's 911 communications system several years ago. 

The overhaul included a new $680 million call center that combined the operations of police, fire and medical dispatchers. City officials have said the update improved response times, eliminated inefficiencies and reduced confusion for callers.

A consultant's report last year, however, indicated the system was troubled by delays and errors that could leave callers without help for crucial seconds in an emergency, and said the FDNY and NYPD weren't prepared for the surge in calls that would come with a massive crisis such as a terrorist attack.

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