Updated: 04-14-2004 09:51:20 AM

Major Overhaul of New York City 911 System Coming


N.J. BURKETT
Courtesy of ABC7

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Big changes are in the works for the city's 911 system. Mayor Bloomberg is vowing to overhaul the current, antiquated system that has long been marred with widespread problems.

In fact calling 911 when you need the fire department involves an extra step that could cost you precious time. The mayor is vowing to make the system faster, smarter and safer.

N.J. Burkett is at the 911 center in downtown Brooklyn.

About 32,000 people call New York City's 911 system every day. But critics say the system is now so outdated and overextended that it's dangerous.

Even the mayor of New York admits that it can't go on like this much longer.

Virginia Badillo, Victim's Mother: "It's in your mind every day, and I need this too ... I need this to happen."

Badillo says the system needs to change. She lost her son Henry in a boating accident off City Island, he was one of four teenagers who called 911 on a cell phone. But their call was mishandled and couldn't be traced.

Charles Guarino lost his son Max.

Charles Guarino, Victim's Father: "I'm glad he's trying to do it, I think it's about time. The system is long overdue for an overhaul."

As it is now, all 911 calls are answered by a NYPD operator, and if it's a police emergency the information goes to a police dispatcher who handles the response.

But there's an extra step for fire and EMS calls, which are transferred to a separate FDNY operator who takes the information a second time, before passing it on to an EMS or fire department dispatcher who sends help.

The extra step not only takes time, but with every transfer there is the risk of losing the call all together. The new system will eliminate the transfers with state-of-the-art software. The result will be one-stop-shopping for 911 calls.

Lawrence Knafo is designing the system for the city of New York.

Lawrence Knafo, Software Designer: "We want to try and streamline that so that they only have to give their information once. We enter it into a system that's used by police, fire and EMS, and they can each access each other's information. And we will be able to quickly get that ambulance to that caller."

What's more, the new system will operate from two identical facilities on opposite ends of New York City.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "They've been doing a spectacular job, the numbers are there. But you can always do better and that's what we're committed to do."

The new system will be phased in over the next few years at a cost that could top $1 billion.
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