Newsday - May 05, 2012by ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
The plague of "short" 911 calls -- lasting 10 seconds or less -- adds to the workload of New York City's massive emergency call system, the report found.
The Bloomberg administration released the 133-page study by an outside consulting firm after previously balking at disclosing a longer preliminary draft.
Windbourne Consulting of Virginia was hired to make an assessment after the blizzard of December 2010, when the city's 911 system, which handles nearly 11 million calls a year, was overloaded by emergency calls, leading to severe delays in responding to medical emergencies.
The system has been centralized for years with fire and police 911 call takers working at one location.
To help combat a rise in short calls, which in 2010 totaled 3.9 million, the report recommends a public education program. The report also calls for improved quality control for call-taking and a unified mapping system for fire and police.
Other problems unearthed by the new study included NYPD and FDNY call-takers consuming valuable time taking down identical information from the same callers, as well as FDNY units being sent to wrong addresses.
The FDNY and NYPD have developed plans independent of each other to deal with surges in 911 calls prompted by severe weather, mass casualty events and terrorist attacks that require a coordinated response, the report stated.
Although moderate in tone, the report appears critical of the call-takers' ability to ask questions "consistently and systematically" or in the "same disciplined sequence on each call." That has resulted in the wrong fire and police resources being sent out on calls, the report found.
Cass Holloway, deputy mayor for operations, defended public safety response times with the 911 system, calling it "the best it has ever been." When the city implements the recommendations, response times will be even faster, he said.
But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat, said in a statement that the report showed the 911 system "is compromised by errors and delays . . . that are simply unacceptable."
"We cannot wait a minute more in correcting a system that has no room for careless mistakes or life-threatening delays," Stringer said.