More problems uncovered with New York City's 911 system

July 10, 2013 3:16:18 PM PDT
An Eyewitness News investigation has uncovered new and troubling information about problems with New York City's 911 system.

In fact, we have found problems with at least 150 emergency calls in just the last five weeks.

The most glaring: the 4 minute delay in dispatching help to 4-year old Ariel Russo after she was hit by an SUV, and later died.

The city says these problems are just a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands of calls they respond to every month.

But the union representing some of the first responders say there's been a significant increase in bad dispatch information that's slowing their response.

"So this one's a wrong address?", we asked Lt. Jim McGowan of the Fire Officers Association.

"Wrong address, over 20 blocks away," he replied.

The Fire Officers Union says they have received more than 150 reports from firefighters documenting wrong dispatch addresses and incomplete information since last month's 911 delay in the hit-and-run death of Ariel Russo.

"Our guys are going out most of the time not knowing where they're going or what they're going to," said McGowan.

On June 20th, fire units are dispatched for a water rescue to the wrong location.

The complaint report says they responded to Stilwell Avenue and the ocean on good faith.

Last week, fire rescue is dispatched to a baby hanging from a third floor window.

No exact address was given, so units went to the intersection and waited.

That's when a civilian flagged the companies and finally told them where to go:

"It's a baby hanging out of a window, you want to have an exact address?", we asked McGowan.

"Absolutely, no doubt," he replied.

And on July 4th an incorrect address delayed fire fighters to a structural fire in the Bronx.

Just Tuesday, in a 911 call for an odor of gas, there was a 3 minute dispatch delay.

"I hope we will finally learn the truth," said Ariel Russo's mother Sophia.

And Wednesday, the Russo Family expressed hope in the Mayor's call for the Department of Investigation to do its own probe into the 4 minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to their dying daughter:

"I don't think my daughter died in vain," said Sophia Russo. "I think a big truth is going to come out of this and a lot of change is going to come out of this."

The Mayor's Office has blamed human error for that delay, but the family attorney says that's unclear.

"Was it human error or are there serious problems with a computer system that affects the lives of all New Yorkers. We still don't know," said attorney Sanford Rubenstein.

An FDNY spokesman says the 150 complaints are but a fraction of the 40,000 pls calls units respond to every month.

As for the wrong addresses, he says a significant number of them trace back to bad information given to dispatch by the caller.

He further adds that they take the complaints seriously and work to resolve all of them.


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