WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
An independent consultant brought in to assess the status of the city's 911 system determined the system is flawed because the NYPD, FDNY, EMS, and Office of Emergency Management are not effectively integrated. "New York City needs a unified strategic plan and agreement," stated the report from Winbourne Consulting LLC.
“Currently, the NYPD and FDNY have developed their 911 surge response independently although a critical incident typically requires a coordinated response," the report stated.
The city had commissioned the report in the aftermath of its widely criticized performance in the December 2010 snowstorm. While the system has made progress, the report found the 911 system is still beset by delays, errors and a lack of coordination that could slow emergency responses.
The report also found the city could cut down on 911 call processing time by changing the order of questions asked and reducing the steps in the 911 logging process. It also concluded 911 dispatchers wasted critical time with duplicative questions. The report recommended the city take more proactive steps, including public education to reduce the number of accidental 911 calls. In 2010, there were 4 million accidental call, approximately 40 percent of the incoming 911 call volume.
Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said the Bloomberg administration was going to implement many of the recommendations of the consultant.
Other concerns found in the report included NYPD’s departure from industry practice by not measuring overall 9111 call taking processing time. "This practice inhibits the ability of NYPD and FDNY and EMS to generate accurate response times."
Additionally, the findings raised concerns that all of the city's emergency agencies had different geofiles and geographic information systems, which could hurt the city's ability to respond to emergencies in the most effective way.
The isn’t the first time the lack of coordination between emergency agencies has been faulted. It identified as a contributing factor to the catastrophic loss of life suffered by the FDNY in the September 11 attacks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg came into office pledging to revamp the 911 system after the shortcomings became apparent on September 11, and during the blackout of 2003.
Mayor Bloomberg released an edited version of the report Friday.
The Bloomberg administration had gone to court to fight the release of a preliminary version of the report that the City's Fire Unions wanted released publicly because they believed it would show that call times for fires were actually longer than reported.
City lawyers argued that the review, commissioned after a massive blizzard in December 2010 that stranded ambulances and backed up the emergency call system, was still in draft form.
Last month, the mayor called the report a "working document" last month and said that "when everything is clear" the city would be "happy" to release it.
Captain Alexander Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, vowed to continue to press through the courts to release the preliminary report. “We are looking for all drafts of the report that we were told was in excess of 200 pages. Now it is down to a 130 pages. A cynic might conclude it was sanitized."
In March, City Comptroller John Liu reported the Bloomberg administration's redesign of the 911 system was a billion dollars over budget and several years behind schedule. He said this recent report seems "duplicative" of what his auditors found and called it a "waste of more taxpayer dollars." His office is in the process of finalizing a second report on the 911 system overhaul.
With the Associated Press