NYC’s 9-1-1 Emergency

09.06.11 Spencer Lund

In the wake of 9/11 and the confusion of emergency response personnel, Mayor Bloomberg revamped the system with a “four-pronged emergency communications transformation program.” The plan also called for “‘unified call taking,”‘ where a police dispatcher takes all the information and relays any fire calls electronically.

Unfortunately, there are still problems, mostly involving the proper address received by fire dispatchers.

Response times have been reduced, but firefighters are still getting ambiguous information about where exactly a fire is occurring.

…firefighters say they still regularly get address information that is vague or wrong. According to one contributor on the FDNY Rant website, when he called in a car fire on the Harlem River Drive at 138th Street recently, the operator asked what borough he was in. Then she asked for an address. ‘Again I told her it was about 138th Street, just west of the Harlem River Drive. Next question was ‘West or East 138th?'”

Opponents of the new system blamed the racial differences between fire dispatchers and 911 operators.

…some of the resistance to the new system can be chalked up to tension between fire dispatchers, who tend to be white men, and 911 operators who are mostly black women.

Regardless of race, emergency call centers are operated by people, so there are going to be  a few mistakes, and this might be one of those few instances. But in the heat of a fire emergency, Manhattan residents better make sure they provide detailed information about where they are. East or West might make all the difference. (Photo: Ming Xia/flickr)