Nearly 40 Percent of City's 911 Calls Accidental: Report

City Hall released an edited version of a consultant's 911 report Friday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A new report says New York's overhauled 9-1-1 system is beset by delays and errors. John Noel reports.

    The city's 911 system fielded nearly four million accidental calls in 2010, which exceeded the number of times officers were dispatched to real emergencies, a consultant's report commissioned by the mayor's office found.

    The inadvertent -- or "butt dial" -- calls accounted for nearly 40 percent of the 10.4 million 911 calls received in 2010. Police cars were dispatched to 3.5 million of the calls received, according to the Daily News.

    The disproportionate number of accidental calls was among the findings in the consultant's report, an edited version of which was released Friday after legal efforts to force the mayor to make it public.

    The report attributes the substantial number of accidental calls to the proliferation of cell phones. And it predicts the problem will only get worse.

    Despite the findings, the report says the city has done nothing to account for or combat the accidental 911 calls, which are generally shorter than calls reporting actual emergencies. The influx of those calls ultimately makes overall 911 response times appear shorter, the report said.

    The NYPD reported an average response time of just over one minute in 2010. But considering accidental calls accounted for nearly 40 percent of all taken that year, "utilizing this metric as currently calculated does not accurately reflect the NYPD's time spent on received and processed 911 calls," the report said.

    The mayor's office has come under fire for the report findings, particularly because Mayor Bloomberg commissioned it after the city's botched response to the Christmas blizzard of two years ago as he pledged to improve emergency communications throughout the city.

    Advocates say the city should try to track the cell phones that make the accidental calls and increase public awareness about the report findings.

    The report also found that call operators waste time on duplicate questions and employ inconsistent questioning procedures. The system, it found, sends some responders to the wrong address and slows fire and medical dispatchers' efforts to give instructions to callers.

    The report follows a years-long overhaul of the system that 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, but Friday's report seemed to call some of those statements into question.

    "Statistical information provided to City Hall management to demonstrate the success of the (Unified Call Taking) project contained errors and does not provide a clear picture of the effectiveness of UCT related business processes," the report said.

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