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Revamped 911 system in New York City hits bumps

Support centers should have an adequate business continuity plan during emergencies.
Support centers should have an adequate business continuity plan during emergencies.

New York City's new $680 million call center that coordinates police, fire and medical dispatchers has had its share of glitches. When the system went dark, emergency operators recorded calls on paper, then gave the messages to runners who passed them on to EMS dispatchers between May 29 and June 1.

Because of their limitations at the time, dispatchers and messengers prioritized calls based on their severity. Raymond Kelly, New York City's police commissioner, told the New York Times that every call was answered.

Despite glitches in the new system, the older one needed to go. Bruce Gaskey, director of the mayor's Citywide Emergency Communications said the program is 40 years old.

"They are getting much more functionality out of this, and as you do in any cutover, you have to work out the kinks," Gaskey told the New York Times.

This is why it is important for organizations to consider business continuity planning

New program that needs business continuity planning

Questions about the new program were raised before its release. Based on the results of the report from Winbourne Consulting, delays and errors in the system show that New York City isn't prepared for a crisis like a terrorist attack. 

The call center that is meant to field calls between police, fire and medical employees may not not be as efficient if the different offices are not working together. These agencies do have a business continuity plan in place for a surge of calls, but these plans are not collaborated, according to the local NBC affiliate. It takes a multi-agency effort to ensure the safety of residents during emergencies.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is standing by the new system and believes that these incidents are common among new products.

"It works, it just has some bugs. You wish you didn't have bugs but that's the real world," Bloomberg said on his radio show.

New York City proved the importance of emergency planning, and that when digital systems are first introduced, errors might occur. Working with business continuity consultants can help organizations create the right contingency plan for their operations.