The City of San Francisco's brand-new, multi-million dollar 911 dispatch system is reportedly full of software glitches that have longtime dispatchers worried about the safety of police officers, firefighters and regular citizens who rely on it in emergency situations.
The new system cost the city anywhere from $3.4 million to $3.7 million and began having problems almost as soon as it was turned on last Wednesday. The computer-aided dispatch was meant to completely replace an older piece of software that could no longer be upgraded, but according to some of the dispatchers who work at the Department of Emergency Management in Hayes Valley, the new equipment could be putting everyone in danger.
As CBS5's mustachioed terrier Phil Matier reports, the new system should have improved communications between the 911 call center and the police and fire departments. Instead, the system has been sending out incomplete information, clogging up channels of communication and forcing emergency responders to revert back to radio calls.
“It can’t exactly obtain information needed to respond for calls of service. The information is in bits and pieces and the information is not all consistent," SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza told CBS5. "When you use the radio traffic for calls for service," Esparza continued, "it doesn’t free up the air for an officer that might have an emergency."
The Department of Emergency Management, meanwhile, says they tested the system extensively with over 50,000 test calls and dispatcher training. Department spokesman Francis Zamora downplayed the troubles with the system, saying the bugs were "pretty much as expected" and that they have not affected emergency services. But the rank-and-file dispatchers who spend their days in front of the computer bank don't exactly sound confident in the new software.
"I can tell you this," dispatcher Mark Terris told the Examiner, "I would be scared as a citizen to dial 911 the way we are with the system."
"It's a nightmare, it's an operational nightmare," fellow dispatcher Elaine Aniano said of the new system. "People are gonna get hurt. I'm scared."
"We are concerned for the safety of the units in the field," 10-year dispatching veteran Joan Vallarino explained, by way of expressing her dissatisfaction with department management.
According to city officials speaking with CBS5, about twenty people from the manufacturer have been assigned to troubleshoot the problem, but there are currently no estimates as to when all the bugs will be ironed out. Until then, knock on wood the big one doesn't hit.