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New York City 911 center under fire again, Boston investigates

New York City's call system is being criticized for not sending an ambulance sooner for a four-year-old girl.
New York City's call system is being criticized for not sending an ambulance sooner for a four-year-old girl.

Earlier this month, New York City launched a new 911 call center system and it crashed four times in three days. The business continuity plan consisted of operators transcribing calls with pen and paper then passing the message on to EMS dispatchers. NYPD said no lives were at risk during that time. 

On June 4, it took over four minutes for dispatchers to send an ambulance after the police called for one, according to the New York Daily News. Unlike before, this required urgent attention. Four-year-old Ariel Russo was hit by an SUV — she was pronounced dead soon after she was struck at 8:15 a.m.

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said that the delay was caused by human error.

"There were no technology glitches," Cassano told the News. "[The worker] just failed to read the screen. We'll deal with that. Their screen should never be left unread, because these are lifesaving calls."

Despite what Cassano said, the dispatcher on was a 23-year EMS employee who showed up at 7:59 a.m. Logs show that the veteran went on break before the incident and passed the computer to another dispatcher. The Daily News reported that she never left her station and nothing showed up on the screen. At the time, there were at least 40 dispatchers and officers. Every computer is automatically alerted if a call hasn't been answered in three minutes.

Boston investigates problems in NYC's program

Boston plans on launching their system from Intergraph this fall. Bill Oates, Boston's chief technology center is sending police, fire, EMS and technology workers to see what's happening with the NYC system, according to the Boston Herald.

"We're going to dig in and find out exactly what happened and transfer all that learning to what we're doing for the balance of the project," Oates told the Herald.

Cities must be wary of alternatives if technology is not operating correctly. Business continuity consultants can help create a plan to suit the needs of emergency staff.