NYC's New 911 System Crashes Twice in 2 Days: Police Commissioner

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

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    The city's new 911 system suffered at least two disruptions during its first two days of service. Gus Rosendale reports. (Published Thursday, May 30, 2013)

    The city's revamped 911 computer system crashed twice in its first two days of operation, suddenly shutting down hundreds of screens and forcing phone operators to scribble emergencies on slips of paper to be run to dispatchers, officials said.

    The emergency response system crashed for 16 minutes on Wednesday, and then again for six minutes on Thursday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

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    "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.

    When the system shut down, computers at the main call center in Brooklyn shut down, along with satellite terminals in other rooms where dispatchers listen to police and EMS radios and determine where to send emergency responders.

    Kelly said all 911 calls were received during the outage, but "it was the link between the call takers and the dispatchers that had a problem."

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

    One longtime NYPD phone operator told the Daily News that the failure caused "pandemonium."

    The operator told the News there weren't enough runners to move all the paper slips for the calls that came through. 

    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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