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Queens Chronicle

Crowley seeks to end 911 Unified Call Taker

Councilwoman rallies at City Hall with Letitia James before hearing

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Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:36 pm, Thu Jun 12, 2014.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) wasn’t satisfied with speaking at a City Council oversight hearing on the city’s 911 Unified Call Taker system.

She took to the outside of City Hall beforehand to press for change, too.

Alongside Public Advocate Letitia James and members of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association, Crowley demanded the demise of the $2.1 billion UCT program.

The councilwoman’s calls come after a WNYC report last month revealed communication problems with the system have led to an increase in emergency personnel response times on several occasions, including last December’s Metro-North train derailment that killed four people.

Last week, Mayor de Blasio suspended the system to allow for a 60-day “objective review” of its functionality to take place.

“Billions of dollars later, New York City is no safer now than it was before the implementation of this flawed pilot project,” Crowley said. “When a fire or medical emergency is called into 911, that call should be immediately connected to the appropriate fire or EMS dispatchers.”

Under the UCT system, 911 dispatchers connect the call to fire or EMS dispatchers after all incident information is collected. Occasionally, callers are asked duplicate questions by fire or police dispatchers, delaying the arrival of first responders, according to Crowley.

To avoid repetitive questioning, the councilwoman said her solution would be to have the original dispatcher determine the type of emergency before transferring the call to the appropriate department, where the remainder of the questioning would take place.

“This simple change to the call-taking process could be achieved at no financial cost to the administration,” Crowley said, “and was specifically recommended by the city’s own independent investigation of the 911 system in 2012.”

James echoed Crowley’s concerns, saying she hopes the UCT system will soon become a thing of the past.

“The ongoing problems with the city’s UCT program are deeply disturbing,” James said. “It is time the city begin phasing out the program while emergency fire and medical calls are routed to the appropriate borough-based dispatchers.”

According to the mayor, the review of the system will be wide ranging.

“A full review of all the operations, the procedures, the training, supervision, etcetera,” de Blasio said.

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