Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday unveiled what he called a major milestone in the overhaul of the 911 system, and the changes are intended to prevent problems that have sometimes complicated emergencies in the past. NY1’s Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Just about everyone remembers the 2003 blackout, when the city that never sleeps stopped and the 911 system failed.
Things have changed.
"We have the best system that we could possibly create," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a press conference Thursday.
After the blackout, the city committed to upgrade its 911 call system.
The previous system was built in 1968 and upgraded in 1995. Until last month, police, fire and EMS 911 operators operated somewhat independently.
Now they're all in the same building and on the same floor.
"If you were to pick up the phone and call and say, 'Somebody's holding me up,' 'I just fell down the stairs and broke a leg,' 'And by the way there's a fire,' one call will get you the response that you need. That's exactly the kind of coordination that we need," said Bloomberg.
Roughly 200 operators at a time now use the same computer system, one that triangulates cell phone calls and immediately maps out the caller’s location for the city worker.
"It used to be that the call center had to close one screen and open another screen, so vital seconds are saved," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Vital seconds for the 30,000 calls that are made per day, or 11 million per year. The new system can handle six times that amount.
And just in case the public safety answering center in Brooklyn gets hit by a disaster, the city is building a back-up call center in the Bronx.
"The public can go to sleep tonight feeling safer," said Bloomberg.
The cost for that safety is more than $2 billion, perhaps a small price if it eliminates the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the emergency response that once left the city in the dark.