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For Immediate Release: December 10th, 2009

FDNY Unions Say: UCT Dispatch System is "Fatally Flawed"

Leaders of three FDNY uniformed unions joined together to speak out and detail how the Bloomberg Administration's new 911 Unified Call Taking (UCT) dispatch system is "fatally flawed." UFA president Steve Cassidy, Unformed EMT and Paramedics Local 2507 president Pat Bahnken and Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association president David Rosensweig joined by their respective union members held a press conference prior to a City Council hearing examining problems that have plagued the new multi-billion dollar UCT dispatch system.

Since implementation of the UCT in May 2009 first responders in the FDNY are being delayed considerably, sent to incorrect addresses, dispatched to cell phone towers, wasting precious time and allowing fires to grow and medical emergencies to worsen as patients go untreated for longer periods of time. Over 1,000 dispatch errors have occurred.

UCT has been called a multi-billion dollar boondoggle by Firefighters, Fire Officers and EMT's and Paramedics at the FDNY. They say that UCT stands for "U-Can't-Tell" as in: You can't tell what or where the emergency is and what to expect when you arrive at the scene... that is, if you get to the scene. FDNY calls differ from NYPD calls in that police emergencies are often incidents that already occurred, while fire and EMS emergencies are for incidents currently taking place, requiring in-depth knowledge of FDNY operations.

"We're getting wrong addresses and we're not getting information we need to dispatch the correct type of response and equipment to fires and emergencies," said David Rosenzweig, president of the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association. "The UCT system is fatally flawed and is putting the lives of New Yorkers and firefighters at risk."

Under the UCT fire calls are answered by 911 UCT operators, who send a computer message limited to 40-characters to a Fire Alarm Dispatcher. The Fire Dispatcher only has access to the information on their computer screen taken and transmitted to them by the UCT call taker. The Fire Alarm dispatcher then sends out FDNY companies based on that limited information, passing along updates from 911 call takers. When the UCT system sends over additional information, including corrections to previous emergency dispatches, they sometimes show up as new emergency, causing additional delays.

Steve Cassidy, President of the UFA said that the city has been lying to New Yorkers about response times generated by its failed UCT dispatch system, which he said has driven up response times to fire and medical emergencies, as opposed to reducing them as City Hall has claimed. "We know total response times are up, because the city is not counting the time it takes for its UCT operator to question a 911 caller. The city's deliberately false statistics are part of an attempt to justify closing firehouses in 2010. The Bloomberg Administration's Enron-style accounting for response times raises questions about other fake statistics being generated out of City Hall."

The average UCT caller time looks to be about 1:15 before the information is sent to the FDNY, at which time the city finally starts its official "response time clock." This uncalculated time period lengthens the wait for a heart attack victim significantly or means a fire can grow exponentially while it is untended. According to the federal government (NIST), it takes just 2 minutes and 40 seconds from the inception of a fire, until a room is completely engulfed in flames, with temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees. View the NIST Video.

"New York City's emergency medical response system through the FDNY is busier than the next nine largest cities in the United States combined," said Patrick J. Bahnken, president of the Uniformed EMT's, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors, Local 2507. "Expediting medical responses are of primary importance. Any delay to dispatch medical personnel compromises public safety."