Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NYC 911 System In Shambles, Bloomberg Says All Is Well

A Daily News op-ed today:

After insisting the main flaw in the city’s new 911 emergency call system was with the people who dispatched responders, City Hall’s top man on the project admitted that there had been technical glitches.

But they had all been ironed out, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said on a July 9 visit to the Daily News.

It sure sounded good.

Among the issues that had been resolved, Holloway said, were freeze-ups in the computer link between call-takers and EMS dispatchers.

Those had begun soon after the city switched over on May 29 to a system that linked a single team of dispatchers to disparate police, fire and EMS operations.

First, several dozen dispatch screens froze at once. Not knowing what was happening and fearful that the entire 911 system could go offline, managers shut automated routers and took out pens and paper.
While technicians rebooted the computers, operators wrote information on slips of paper and runners raced the slips to dispatchers. It took 18 minutes to get the system working again.

A few days later, when about 50 screens froze, the managers shut down for a reboot and relied on runners and slips for 52 minutes. Combining both outages, the runners and slips sent out about 860 ambulance runs.

The technicians then did what technicians do, Holloway said, and all was well.

“It will be an anomaly indeed when you go to slips going forward,” he said.

Welcome to anomaly central.

On Monday, the system crashed multiple times and technicians took it offline several more times during the week for a total of 90 minutes. Dispatchers recorded almost 500 calls using runners and slips. Not to worry.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Fire Department reported that the techies had finally figured things out. The system had been “fully stabilized,” the statement said, adding, “The problem was caused by corrupted ‘disk arrays.’ ” Oh, that.

Enough of good-sounding assurances. This is deadly serious. The response system’s troubles have extended well beyond electronic errors.

Staffing is in such turmoil that the NYPD will add 150 civilian dispatchers and is considering assigning 300 uniformed cops to dispatch duty. Also, the Department of Investigation is studying the unexplained 4-minute delay in getting an ambulance to Ariel Russo, when the child lay fatally injured after being hit by an SUV.

Asked time and again, The News’ question remains: How safe are we?

New York City is lucky it got ripped off hundreds of millions of dollars in the CityTime scandal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning.

Mr. Bloomberg’s argument was that because the fraudsters agreed to pay the city back $500 million after being hounded by federal prosecutors and the city’s Department of Investigation, the project of modernizing the municipal payroll system ended up being a bargain.

“That whole system cost us something like only a 100 million dollars and it should have been many times that,” he said. “We were lucky because of the fraud. And in the end it turned out, because of the recovery, we saved a lot of money.”

The mayor arrived at this topic after defending the city’s much-maligned 911 system, which has been barraged with reports of dysfunction and shutdowns. Mr. Bloomberg compared the two cases and maintained the system was working just fine.

“When was the last time you heard a complaint about the basic accounting system for the municipal workforce that has something like two thirds of all municipal workers on it? None one. Not one complaint,” he said, latter adding, “It certainly works and this 9/11 system certainly works as well. Will there be glitches? Computer systems all the time have glitches. Nothing’s perfect.”

 Feeling safe yet?