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FDNY commissioner blames operators as 9-1-1 system ‘glitch’ investigated after girl’s death

Posted: 6:48 PM, Jun 11, 2013
Updated: 2013-06-12 15:25:37-04

NEW YORK (PIX11) – It was a massive overhaul that came with a massive price tag. The city’s brand new 911 operating system, known as ICAD, was rolled out but almost immediately came criticism.  The spotlight was the brightest last week after the tragic death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo in the Upper West Side.

While she was killed by an unlicensed teenage driver, union officials representing thousands of EMS dispatchers, pointed at glitches in a new system which they believe has led to  slower response times for ambulances.

However, Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano maintained it was human error that led to a four minute lag before an ambulance was dispatched to Russo.  Nearly full blame was placed on the EMS dispatcher stationed at the ICAD relay desk.

“To say there’s nothing wrong with the system and blame an employee its really outrageous. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Israel Miranda, President of Local 2507.

FDNY, Union point fingers over 9-1-1 call delays

4-year-old Ariel Russo

The FDNY said their independent investigation confirmed the dispatcher on the ICAD relay desk received an alert and that it did in fact appear on her screen, but it was missed it. Instead, it was the next operator on duty who became aware of the call and dispatched EMS properly.  Finally, the specific alert was the sole responsibility of the dispatcher on the relay desk, despite the alert appearing on numerous other screens, including those of supervisors.

“My members statement is simple that that call was never on her screen.  She remembers processing certain calls.  She never got up from her chair until her proper relief came,” said Miranda.

“Calls brought to our attention that we’ve looked at have been over exaggerated,” said Commissioner Cassano.

However, the FDNY does admit on occasion, during the transfer, some calls are sent with only partial information, with full details of an emergency following seconds after, but not minutes or hours later.

“Now there are allegations we are not telling the truth.  I’ve ordered an investigation this morning.  I believe people are not telling the truth and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said Cassano.

The City Council’s Committees for Fire and Criminal Justice Services and Committee on Public Safety are expected to hold an emergency oversight hearing on Monday afternoon in response to the growing criticism.