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EMS Dispatch System Goes Down for the Second Time this Week

By  Ben Fractenberg and Aidan Gardiner | July 24, 2013 5:35pm 

 The EMS dispatch system went down Monday, the FDNY confirmed.
The EMS dispatch system went down Monday, the FDNY confirmed.
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Flickr/Teijo Hakala

NEW YORK CITY — The city's EMS dispatch system went down for five minutes Wednesday morning, causing dispatchers to handle 23 calls manually, and then slowed again for 15 minutes, the FDNY said.

The outage happened while technicians were conducting a diagnostic procedure, according to fire officials, and then slowed later in the morning, causing dispatchers to record an additional 55 calls manually.

"You didn't have any idea where the ambulances were because the computer tells you that," said the president of EMS Union Local 2507, Israel Miranda. "The real issue here is that we've never had these problems before."

The computerized emergency call-in system was on the fritz for roughly 25 minutes from about 8:40 a.m. to a little after 9 a.m., according to Miranda. The blackout forced dispatchers to take down call information on paper, he said, adding that the dispatchers would then put out a call over the radio to see if any ambulances were close to the scene.

The computer system also provides responders with phone numbers to the location where they are responding, Miranda explained, enabling them to advise people tending to the patient on how best to aid them before help arrives.

"You’re only limited to the information you get. When you’re doing it by computer, you get a lot more information. You get a call back number in case you have to call the patient back. All this interaction can't take place."

The 30-year-old EMS dispatch system is being replaced as part of the city's 911 system overhaul, which has had multiple outages since being implemented in late May.

The Uniformed Firefighters Union vowed last week to sue the city in an attempt to stop the new system.