NEW YORK (PIX11) — According to internal emails, city officials knew about flaws in the 911 system days before a little girl died in an Upper West Side car wreck — a scene paramedics arrived at nearly five minutes late because of a system delay.
Since the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo and serious injury of her grandmother on June 4th, the criticism and scrutiny surrounding the city’s expensive new 911 system, known as ICAD, has heightened.
It was reported by PIX11 just days after Russo’s death that there was a delay of almost four and a half minutes before an ambulance arrived to save the little girl.
The $88 million system is accused by the emergency operators’ union of being flawed and leading to lost or delayed emergency calls — but the FDNY believes human error is at fault, not the system.
First reported by the NY Daily News, PIX11 has now obtained internal emails between EMS workers and the head of computer programming for EMS, Carla Murphy.
The emails indicate higher levels of management knew about flaws in the city’s expensive new 911 operating system, or ICAD, days before Ariel Russo’s death.
In an email dated just two days after Russo’s death, Murphy acknowledges being told of problems several days before.
The emails read:
Last night we had a couple of jobs that I would like you to look at cad #0499 came in as a lost job. I had one of the Intergraph people come over to look at our screen. They couldn’t figure out why this job came in this way. I had relay do the sph (sic) I and then we put the call in as a injury. The other job was cad 0368 edp (emotionally disturbed persons) this came in as a call and it said none on it. And in the . . . location said BK. Please get back to me. Why are these jobs coming in this way and what are we supposed to do with these type jobs.”
“regarding the lost calls (name redacted) reported the problem to me several days ago and I provided a list of incidents where this had occurred over 3 days to nypd for intergraph to resolve. It is happening to about 1/4 to 1/3 of incidents transmitted from nypd icad. With job 499 the first data we received from ICAD was a comment with no location information.
#368 came in with a blank address and pd loc (sic) comment nypd reported that they planned to send incidents to emscad and Starfire with blank addresses months ago and emd (emergency medical dispatch) and fire dispatch agreed to this, which is why we made sure that all nypd incidents are mappable for the ards (alarm receipt dispatch). There should be an operational policy for the ards handle incidents with no location using the map, we get several of these a day, along with estimated addresses which may not have sufficient information for responding units to find the incident.”
And on Tuesday, two mayoral candidates spoke out for action.
“It’s not about money anymore it’s about lives. What did the mayor know and when did he know it?” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “What did other city officials know, and when did they know it?”
“Whether its software or hardware, it’s the system that’s not working,” Comptroller Bill Thompson said.
The NYC Department of Investigation told PIX11 in a statement: “DOI is already investigating the matter. Over a week ago, DOI was asked by the administration to investigate the facts related to the Ariel Russo matter and that is underway.”
Late this afternoon, Ariel Russo’s family is also asking for answers.
Ariel’s father says “You don’t let the public forget. As her dad, I gotta do everything I can to get justice for her.”
In the meantime, the city’s Fire Department says they have nothing new to add to today’s story. For days and weeks, Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano insisted there were no problems with the new system.
That the issues were instead being overblown by disgruntled union employees.
However, Israel Miranda President of the EMS Dispatchers Union says these email exchanges are all the proof the public should need.
“I was shocked, how everything that I said was true. Obviously, management knew about these issues, and the commissioner stood in front of the public and the press, and basically lied to them.”
The lost calls the union is referring to have been delayed by varying amounts of time, they say — ranging from seconds to as much as 20 minutes.
In regards to the story, FDNY Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Frank Gribbon released a statement Tuesday afternoon: “To date, since the launch of this system on May 29, EMS Dispatch has handled 131,621 calls. Not a single call has been lost.”