And the "fallout" from Hurricane Sandy Continues:
As someone who was there, I can tell you that no agency of any kind in this country can handle 20,000 calls per hour in their 911 center. It just cannot happen. Could there have been better planning on the part of all agencies involved, of course. Should all agencies involved have made certain that all seats were staffed at all times. Of Course. However, this type of blame, at this time, does nothing constructive except distract from the real problems and the real potential solutions and, more importantly, the issues from which there are no real solutions.
Namely, that during periods of extreme disaster, you can exceed the capacity of a 911 center to manage its calls. Now, what can you do when that happens?
Should we establish a regional or national 911 rollover policy and system? But if we do, how do we get that information back to where it needs to be?
Should we do a low tech change in the 911 Hold announcement? Or, during periods of disaster, have all calls go into a hold pattern where the callers hear an automated message, informing them that 911 is overloaded and they should only remain on the line if they have a legitimate emergency, then list what those are and what they should dial 311 for?
Should we do a much better job on public education regarding these types of events, what they can really expect of 911 and what will happen whenever massive disasters impact high-population areas?
These are the kinds of discussions that we need to be having. UCT (NYPD 911 operators answering FDNY calls is not going away under the present administration. There are, however, some big questions that need to be answered. Not pettiness in an us versus them way of FDNY Fire Dispatchers blasting NYPD 911 calltakers for being unable to handle something that no one else could have handled. Especially when we, AT BEST would have 13 calltakers to handle the calls! In other words, we didn't have enough to answer our calls either. So the blame game makes zero sense, especially when we are pointing out the splinter in our brother's eye but ignoring the log in our own (to paraphrase the Biblical admonition) .
What we need now are effective, informed, and common sense questions, ideas, and answers, about how 911 systems handle peak days in a world where there are not unlimited resources to answer the calls or respond to the emergencies. This is a problem that all 911 centers face, especially those dealing with Hurricanes or other massive disasters and lessons from Sandy that could easily apply to all.
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