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Thread: 911 failing?

  1. #1
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    Post 911 failing?

    Not sure if this is the appropriate forum, but I was just reading a "the secret list" email and it mentioned the 911 system failing in Seminole County, Florida. Just wondering how common this is? I know for a fact that it happened in my parents' hometown when my dad passed away of a heart attack. My mom called 911 and got a busy signal, hung up called a family friend who drove over immediately, it was 8-10 minutes before she got a call back from 911. Now who knows how much of a difference it would have made, as it is a town of 1500 w/ a volley fire dept and ambulance, but there were 3 volley's (one a medic in the Nat'l Guard) that lived within 200yd running distance. CPR was attempted by mom and a family friend, but neither really knew what they were doing. I have no idea if the person(s) staffing the ambulance that night (staffing defined as, able to drive to the ambulance within 5 mins or less, or hanging out at the ambulance station) would be defib trained or if they might have an AED on board. But most cops these days have CPR training and an AED (I assume, they do around here). Anyways, it could have played a role, or it may have just been his time, but it's scary to think that you could call 911 and get a busy signal or the 911 system would be somehow unreachable. What do you folks think?


  2. #2
    Forum Member edge1317's Avatar
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    I think you need to have more faith in the hometowns fire department. You seem to be knocking them.

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    Actually, I think for the size town and the amount of funding they have, they do a great job. But there is no (afaik, never has been since we've lived there) paramedic on staff, possibly not even an EMT-B (none of the staff that I know are cert'd, and I know most of the dept, I grew up there and go back every summer for their fundraiser). I would hope they have an AED on board, just because it's easy to get CPR cert'd, and would be invaluable. And believe me, when I say that "staffed" can sometimes mean "yeah, I'm on ambulance duty today but it's been so quiet that I came over here (here being a 3 minute drive) to chat it up with you, my fellow volley, since I saw you were playing w/ your dog earlier." I've seen it. Usually no big deal, not saying it was or wasn't the case that night. FYI, we also have 2-3 town cops (total, including chief) at any given time of the year, with 1 or 0 on-duty (as in, in the car) depending on the time of day/day of the week. Again, usually adequate for this town.

    I'm not knocking anyone except the county 911 system, which really let me down. When it comes to heart attacks, if I know my statistics correctly, if you don't get chest compressions within 5 minutes, survival is unlikely. No defib within 10, it's very unlikely (is that correct?). It's great that 911 knew the number to call back, but extremely disconcerting that a) it was "busy" and b) no call back for 8-10 minutes (aka no instruction from someone who could walk a bystander through basic cpr). When I'm on call in my IT dept for the hospital, no matter time of day, I'm supposed to call either the user (during business hours), or the paging desk (from 5pm-7am and on weekends) back within 5 minutes. And none of my calls are life or death, though they may be considered patient critical.

    FYI, when the call finally did go out over the radio, there were 10 volleys at the house in 5 minutes or less. Their response was great.

    Again, I'm wondering how common this is, and if it's something 911 organizations (is that the proper term?) plan for when implementing new systems, or test in yearly audits (if they have such a thing). We (citizens) look to 911 to be a helping hand. Are there more problems than we know of or are these extremely rare occurrences? What can I do as a citizen to make sure my community has looked at this issue? AKA, who would I write a letter, or make a phone call to, with my concern?

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    Forum Member edge1317's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timjmill View Post
    When it comes to heart attacks, if I know my statistics correctly, if you don't get chest compressions within 5 minutes, survival is unlikely. No defib within 10, it's very unlikely (is that correct?).
    Actually with cardiac arrests, survivability is low overall. TV and movies misled alot of the public that a little pumping and a little shocking brings back mostly everybody. Even if someone does recover from a cardiac arrest there is a chance of brain damage, everything from minor to you can't wipe your butt damage.

    It's great that 911 knew the number to call back, but extremely disconcerting that a) it was "busy" and b) no call back for 8-10 minutes (aka no instruction from someone who could walk a bystander through basic cpr). When I'm on call in my IT dept for the hospital, no matter time of day, I'm supposed to call either the user (during business hours), or the paging desk (from 5pm-7am and on weekends) back within 5 minutes.
    With all technology sometimes it malfunctions or it isn't able to do what is asked of it. Is it possible it was less than 8-10 min, while in stressful situations time can drag out. I don't know if your comparing your IT job to the job of a dispatcher, but a dispatcher job has alot more responsibilities that the public doesn't know about and probably a good bit that I don't know. In addition to taking 911 calls they have to dispatch correct units keep track of these units. Alot of places take care of police fire and ems. They have to keep up with alot of traffic.

    Are there more problems than we know of or are these extremely rare occurrences? What can I do as a citizen to make sure my community has looked at this issue? AKA, who would I write a letter, or make a phone call to, with my concern?
    There's problems most average citizens don't know about. Things like people that call 911 give out the wrong address. People giving out wrong information, like "there's a lady here bleeding." Which would be an EMS call maybe fire depending on how and who takes care of EMS in the area. EMS shows up and shes actually been stabbed by her husband who is present, it is no longer EMS at the moment but needed law enforcement there first.

    Another problem is cell phones, people love to call 911 without stopping. Car spins out and goes offroad, good samaritan calls 911 "There's been a huge wreck!" but can't be bothered to stop. We get there and cars gone because nobody was hurt. The ones I love is "There is a big fire at so-and-so" once again caller can't be bothered to stop. We get there and get to check out Mr. Smiths bonfire and roast marshmellows with him.

    If your concerned and want to talk to somebody or write letters find out who does your dispatching in your area and hit them up. Everywhere I've been its the sheriffs department.

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Its a phone. Sometimes they don't work. Most advanced E-911 systems are very redundant and reliable. But like any piece of technology, it might have issues once in a great while. A busy signal, who knows what caused that. It may not have been broken.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Forum Member PNEFD23's Avatar
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    Link to the Seminole County 911 failure:

    http://www.firerescue1.com/communica...ses-300-calls/

    Looks like they just had a bad day.

    One thing we all need to keep in mind, is that anything man-made is subject to failure- No matter how redundant the system is, or how well we maintain it,
    sometimes it just happens.

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Well that sucks. If ours goes down, all it takes is one phone call to AT&T and the calls are instantly rerouted to the next town's PSAP. The caller would never know the difference and the ANI/ALI information would go with it.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I agree with nmfire. It's man-made, and it's run by a machine or machines. It's gonna fail. It's a pretty remarkable system that we take for granted. But some times it's gonna fail. Best thing to do is call right back. Then if that doesn't work then roll with the punches and think of the next best thing. Call the medic who lives 200 yds away. Call the ambulance directly. Call the police department directly.
    I am sure they wouldn't like you calling them directly but if that's what it takes to get attention when you need it then that's what it takes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Its a phone. Sometimes they don't work. Most advanced E-911 systems are very redundant and reliable. But like any piece of technology, it might have issues once in a great while. A busy signal, who knows what caused that. It may not have been broken.

    Agreed. 911 is only 1 tool used to obtains emergency services. Before the 911 system was implemented citizens would dial a 7 digit emergency number for assistance. This still in todays age is a good number to know and have on hand. There are many factors that can affect 911 systems that can be local, regional or in a completely different state from where the caller is located.

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    Default Area 911 Failure

    Not what you were looking for, but another way 911 can fail. If there's no dialtone in an area, you can't dial 911, or anyone else for that matter. Our phone companies are quietly changing where dialtone comes from. One power outage and 4 hours later thousands of people in a neighborhood will not be able to dial 911. Read more about this major weakness at my website here:

    http://phonefailure.com/

    After you read this, check to see if your critical locations are served by one of these remote terminals. Work with your phone company to get it on a generator or find some other way to get calls.

    About your experience, about 10 years ago I was at a restaurant and the guy at the next table fell to the floor and was in full arrest. 3 different people got ring-no-answer on 911, likely due to a high volume of calls related to a thunderstorm. I had my County radio on me and I was able to get a rescue dispatched. Lucky for the patient, one of the waiters was an EMT.

    Ray

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    Forum Member Lifeguard911's Avatar
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    As a Dispatcher myself, one paragraph from the article about Seminole disturbs me-

    "It took about 40 minutes for a backup system designed to route 911 calls to Orange County to kick in. Vernon-Devlin said the system was not set up to automatically transfer the calls, and a computer had to be programmed."

    Forty minutes? This should not happen and needs to be fixed. If our system goes down, it automatically rolls over to the next PSAP so they take our 911 calls. They then pass on the info to us for dispatch. There have been times when our system went down and we did not know it until the next PSAP calls us with an emergency.
    If we know of a 911 outage in our system, we can flip a switch in our equipment room to reroute calls to the next PSAP immediately. Before we replaced our 911 system with a new one this year, we were down three times for maintenance and had to reroute to the next PSAP so no calls would be lost.
    Another way the next PSAP would get our calls is that all the incoming 911 phone lines are tied up with calls. We are a small center and have only three 911 phone lines. When there is an incident like an auto wreck or fire, those three lines get overloaded quickly, particularly with cellphone calls, so some calls roll over to the next PSAP for relay to us.
    The tying up of the 911 lines is not uncommon as with the popularity of cellphones, we get a lot of "drive-by" calls of accident and fires. People don't think, they just call. One woman called me once to report what she called a "horrible car accident". How did she know it was horrible? "It must be", she said, " because of all the firetrucks and ambulances at the accident". Duh.

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    Default Another 911 Failure

    Here's another type of 911 failure for your consideration. What would you do when something like this hits your area?

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_12119748

    Ray

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    Forum Member Lifeguard911's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayVaughan View Post
    Here's another type of 911 failure for your consideration. What would you do when something like this hits your area?

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_12119748

    Ray
    I think one thing most people don't know is that each 911 line actually has a ten digit number, just like every other phone. But they are set up so that only 911 needs to be dialed for the call to go through. This is why we ocasionally get telemarketers who use auto-dialers, calling 911 with a something stupid to sell. The auto-dialer had called the ten-digit number for our 911 line.
    In the case where a large number of trunk lines get cut, including the 911 lines, we could ask the phone company to reroute the incoming 911 calls to a cell phone service that was still active, and answer the calls by cellphone, until the landlines can be repaired. Another alternative is to have the 911 calls roll over to another call center that is still working, and have them relay the calls to us via cellphone or radio.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lifeguard911 View Post
    I think one thing most people don't know is that each 911 line actually has a ten digit number, just like every other phone. But they are set up so that only 911 needs to be dialed for the call to go through. This is why we ocasionally get telemarketers who use auto-dialers, calling 911 with a something stupid to sell. The auto-dialer had called the ten-digit number for our 911 line.
    In the case where a large number of trunk lines get cut, including the 911 lines, we could ask the phone company to reroute the incoming 911 calls to a cell phone service that was still active, and answer the calls by cellphone, until the landlines can be repaired. Another alternative is to have the 911 calls roll over to another call center that is still working, and have them relay the calls to us via cellphone or radio.
    We have an interlaced CAD system where we can enter each other's calls (to some extent) and are pushing for our next CAD upgrage to be fully interlaced.

    Would be cool if there was a national system...
    -------------------

    Failure is not an option!

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    Forum Member Lifeguard911's Avatar
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    FireMidget-

    When you say your CAD is interlaced, do you mean with another PSAP in another town or do you mean the dispatches for Fire, EMS and PD in your jurisdiction are interlaced?

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    The other primary PSAP in our area. we service the majority of the county, they have a smaller section in the county. Our county has 2 primary PSAPs and one secondary PSAP (state partrol). We figure in about 10 years we will have eaten up the smaller Primary PSAP, as we normally have 20+ on staff each shift and they average around 5.
    Last edited by FireMidget; 04-22-2009 at 03:14 AM.
    -------------------

    Failure is not an option!

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    Forum Member Lifeguard911's Avatar
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    We are the only PSAP in our county. The next nearest PSAP is about 60 miles away, so if we go down, it makes for an interesting situation as the other PSAP is not very familiar with our area.
    We have an agreement to get a Comm Van from Colorado Springs PD if we need it in an emergency such as our PSAP going down, but it would take at least three hours to get here and probably another hour to get set up.

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    Forum Member FireMidget's Avatar
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    We just pray that our center does not go down. We are suppose to be able to go to thier center in the case of an emergency at our center, but we know we won't fit!

    We have 6 extra terminals set up for them to use, but they mostly are used for supervisors and for pd emphasis times. we have a total of 28 working terminals on our main floor (assuming all technology is working.) and 9 more hidden away in the front ofc (obviously not dispatcher terminals)

    Problem is that we are running a phone system (vesta) that is so aged that it is duct taped together. Verizon won't service it anymore, so we are begging for parts. Hoping in a year or so we can get a new phone system up and running.
    -------------------

    Failure is not an option!

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    Forum Member Lifeguard911's Avatar
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    We are in the process of building an EOC that will also serve as a backup dispatch. One problem though will be that it will be about ten miles from our current center so it will take some time to move to the EOC and get it up and running.
    Next month we will start switching over to 800 mhz and hopefully, if we have a PSAP problem, the center that is 60 miles away will be able to talk to us directly via radio and that will speed up getting calls dispatched.
    We are a small center with only three consoles right now. I am the only dispatcher on duty right now until 0600. Our normal shift is two dispatchers, sometimes three.

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    Forum Member FireMidget's Avatar
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    Nice! looked at your profile. I am actually looking at moving to that area (or at least state) in a few years. (oh and your dog is adorable!)

    I am being bombarded by Teletype tasks right now... Problem with working at a busy center!

    I think I would be way too lonely if I worked alone all night!

    The county I live in (not the one I work in) had thier radio system go down a few months back, now it is holding on by a hair. They were able to take calls, but could not dispatch anyone over the radio. The PD side was ok, as they all had MDT's. However fire was another issue. My Fire station had to create a phone tree to be alerted about calls, and now is trying out alapha paging as a hope to avert any problems. On other days I have stood 100 feet away from my fire chief and used a portable radio to try to contact him. My transmission went off to la la land, even dispatch didn't hear me.
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    Failure is not an option!

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