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Emails Appear To Reveal Officials Knew Of 911 System Lost Calls Issue

But NYPD Commish Defends New System, Claims No Calls Have Been Lost

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — CBS 2 has obtained emails from Emergency Medical Services supervisors that address “lost calls” in the city’s 911 system, indicating officials knew of problems with the system early on.

However, the FDNY and NYPD insist not a single call has been lost, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported Tuesday.

The emails obtained by CBS 2 were written a day after the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was killed in a car accident on the Upper West Side last month.

The was a “more than” four-minute delay in dispatching the ambulance, but fire officials have blamed human error.

Lieutenant Carl Nunziata sent the first email on June 5 to Carla Murphy of EMS.

He wrote: “Last night we had a couple of jobs that I would like you to look at — cad #0499 came in as a lost job.”

And he adds “… why are these jobs coming in this way and what are we supposed to do with these type jobs?”

Murphy responded: “Regarding the lost calls Chief Napoli reported the problem to me several days ago and I provided a list of incidents where this had occurred … It is happening to about 1/4 to 1/3 of incidents transmitted…”

That would make it appear that many calls may have been lost. But the fire department said out of some 131,000 calls to the system, not a single one has been lost.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has denied reports that a number of emergency calls to the new 911 system have ended up as lost calls.

The commissioner added that very infrequently, a message comes up on the screen that says “PD Lost.”

“It happens about a dozen times in every 5,000 calls. It is no delay. Basically, information is just separated and it comes together. So it is a misnomer – ‘PD Lost’ is simply a misnomer,” Kelly told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “Some people have interpreted that to be a lost call. However, all it is is a piece of information getting out ahead of the rest of information.”

He added the opinion he hears from outside contractors and experts is that the new 911 system is functioning well.

But New York City Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio warned lost calls mean lost lives.

He cited the case of Russo, who died last month after she was struck by an SUV.

The little girl’s family has sued the city claiming the 911 call got lost in the system, causing a delay in getting an ambulance to the scene.

“I don’t want any other family go through what my family is going through. I want answers,” said Sofia Russo, Ariel’s mother. “I am haunted by the fact that she was alive as the long minutes passed and probably would be alive today had an ambulance been dispatched in a timely fashion.”

FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said at the time the call was missed due to human error, not a glitch in the system. Both sides have noted that it’s impossible to know whether Russo would have survived if an ambulance had arrived sooner.

“There’s a great sense of fear that if 911 isn’t functioning, we don’t know if we’ll get help when we need it,” de Blasio told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks.

He has demanded an immediate independent investigation into the 911 computer system following reports that hundreds or even thousands of calls are lost every day.

Fellow Democratic mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson said he agrees with the call for an investigation.

“The administration needs to stop. They need to stop saying everything’s fine when it’s clear it is not fine. They need to fix this 911 system immediately,” Thompson told Brooks.

During a City Council hearing on the 911 system late last month, emergency dispatchers, firefighters and EMS workers said the city’s new $2 billion modernization of its 911 system, which includes using new technology and a new backup call center, is unreliable.

The new system has already crashed twice since going live about a month ago, forcing operators to take critical caller information using pen and paper and then pass that information off to runners who carry it to dispatchers.

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