DC 37 Demands Federal Investigation of City's Flawed 9-1-1 System

The union representing 9-1-1 operators and EMS dispatchers urges Dept. of Homeland Security to investigate the emergency system, calling recent failures a "threat to public safety."

Jun 11, 2013, 15:49 ET from District Council 37

NEW YORK, June 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- District Council 37, AFSCME, Executive Director Lillian Roberts has called on the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate the city's 9-1-1 emergency response system citing recent failures and the fact that the $2 billion system was funded, in part, by federal dollars.

Roberts, head of the city's largest public employee union representing 121,000 workers, including over 1,000 emergency operators and dispatchers, stated in a June 10th letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, "The present status of the 9-1-1 system upgrade – massive cost overruns, waste and allegations of fraud, serious operational issues and significant understaffing – poses a serious threat to public safety and is a significant drain on much-needed public resources."

Noting that shortly after the new system went on line following a recent $88 million upgrade, it began experiencing glitches and operational failures, Roberts said, "The 9-1-1 operators were forced to record emergency information by hand on slips of paper in order for runners to race through the emergency call center's vast Brooklyn headquarters to deliver them to dispatchers charged with alerting the appropriate response team."

To date, there have been three NYC City Council hearings on the 9-1-1 system breakdowns but, Roberts noted, the city has not taken steps to correct the system's failures.   

NYC Controller John Liu found, in a recent audit, that Mayor Bloomberg's project to upgrade the system was seven years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget and only one component of the system upgrade was presently up and running. Liu also indicted that the City's emergency 9-1-1 program was significantly impacted by the contractors' delays in meeting their contractual obligations resulting in a $362 million additional cost to the city.

Roberts adds, "The overall cost of the glitch-ridden system has soared from $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion, and chronic understaffing under the Bloomberg administration nearly doubled annual overtime expenses since 2008 to $4 million, with this year's tab expected to hit $4.5 million."

Roberts' letter to DHS insists that the Bloomberg administration has "created a serious threat to public safety and wasted millions of dollars by contracting out the project to firms with questionable performance records, such as Intergraph Corp. which has been implicated in breakdowns of similar systems in San Jose, Calif., and Nassau County."

District Council 37 is New York City's largest public employee union, with 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees.

Zita Allen, Communications Director
Molly Charboneau, Rudy Orozco
(917) 309-2210

SOURCE District Council 37