911 calls reveal confusion about address in Staten Island fire that seriously injured nun

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Stacey Sager reports on what role the flawed 9-1-1 system may have played in delaying response to Spuyten Duyvil derailment last December. (WABC)

There are new questions about a fire on Staten Island, and whether confusion by a 9-1-1 operator about the convent's address cost critical seconds, and helped land a nun in the hospital.

The hydrants outside the historic convent stood idle, as the fire nearly destroyed the sanctuary where the nuns desperately called for help.


911 call 1

911 Operator: 911, where's the emergency?
Sister Denise: 8-50 Hyland Boulevard. It's an old convent. It's, there's a fire.
911 Operator: There's a fire at what address ma'am?
Sister Denise: 8-5-0 Hyland Boulevard...

As the fire raged, Sister Denise Martin was forced to give the 9-1-1 operator her address a dozen times, in two separate phone calls.


911 call 1, more

911 Operator: Ok ma'am, are you sure the building number is 8-5-0?
Sister Denise: Am I sure? It's eight five zero. That's the school. You have to go past the school, go around...make a right on Fingerboard and a right on Columbia...but please hurry 'cause it's coming.
911 Operator: Ok, uh, um...

Critics say the problem is that 9-1-1 operators are required to obtain basic information before passing the call on to local fire dispatchers.

Faye Smith of the Uniformed Fire Dispatchers Benevolent Association said, "I'm from Staten Island, and as soon as I heard it I knew exactly what she was talking about, but that wasn't the case."

At one point Sister Regina Gegic (Gay-gitch) called 9-1-1 as she was about to jump from the burning building.

911 call 2
911 Operator: What are your cross streets ma'am? What two streets are you between?
Sister Regina: It's, uh, St. Joseph Hill Convent.
911 Operator: Is it a hospital ma'am or a school?
Sister Regina: School - uh, convent. Old convent. Because I'm trying to jump from that...
911 Operator: What floor...
Sister Regina: ...window.

Sister Regina suffered a broken back in the fall. The delay wasted nearly two and a half minutes.

Smith said that the delay made a difference in the outcome.

"The 9-1-1 operator certainly was trying to ascertain the correct location of the nun, but the fact that she wasn't familiar with Staten Island, it showed," said Smith.





Related Topics:
fire911 callstaten islandArrocharNew York City
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