NYC 911 emergency call system goes down, as problems with ECTP continue

By LOUIS FLORES

The city's computer-assisted system of dispatching ambulances in response to 911 emergency calls crashed at approximately 2:15 p.m. today and remained off-line for about two hours, WABC Channel 7 News reported.

The system crash resulted in 911 operators having to take down information about emergencies by hand before manually dispatching ambulances.  During the time of the system outage, approximately 400 ambulances had to be dispatched, according to the WABC report.  There were "no immediate indication that any lives were threatened" as a result of the system outage. 

The emergency call center in Brooklyn, where operators are supposed to be aided by a sophisticated computer system upgrade that was supposed to streamline the dispatching of 911 emergency response services.  The system upgrade has been hobbled by technology problems, is many years behind schedule, and is about $1 billion over budget.  Source :  Official Photograph/New York City

The emergency call center in Brooklyn, where operators are supposed to be aided by a sophisticated computer system upgrade that was supposed to streamline the dispatching of 911 emergency response services.  The system upgrade has been hobbled by technology problems, is many years behind schedule, and is about $1 billion over budget.  Source :  Official Photograph/New York City

New York City's 911 emergency call system has been the focus of of a troubled and expensive upgrade, called the Emergency Communications Transformation Program, or ECTP, which is six years behind schedule and almost $1 billion over budget -- and it still doesn’t work.  Two weeks ago, the troubled ECTP program was the subject of a lengthy Progress Queens report drawing attention to the fact that no prosecutors have ever probed ECTP's contractors, notably Hewlett-Packard, for contract bidding irregularities, hundreds of millions of dollars in over-billing, and the negligent deaths of New Yorkers, for whom emergency ambulances arrived too late to save their lives.  Surviving family members of one child killed by delays in the faulty ECTP upgrade are suing New York City for wrongful death of their loved one.

In 2012, former New York City Comptroller John Liu publicly referred the findings of an audit of ECTP to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for review of possible criminality, but Cyrus Vance, the do-nothing Manhattan D.A., has never taken any prosecutorial action.  At the time of the Progress Queens report, a request for an interview sent to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was not answered.

In September and October 2011, the 911 emergency call system crashed.  In July 2013, the 911 emergency call system crashed repeated and needed to be rebooted.

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New York City, the blogger and political activist Suzannah B. Troy rightly predicted that the 911 system would again crash, due to heavy call volume.  Ms. Troy has been chronicling the expensive failures of ECTP, questioning why some of the nation's largest defense contractors, which have been working on ECTP, have escaped criminal investigation.  In the wake of the disaster from Hurricane Sandy, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pleaded with the public to refrain from dialing 911 to prevent the system from completely collapsing.  

Gary Tilzer, the journalist behind the news Web site True News, has been asking that elected officials, who have employed ECTP lobbyists, such as George Arzt, as campaign consultants, should be confronted and asked why do such officials employ political operatives, who have been paid to propagate Hewlett-Packard's expensive and arguably negligently deadly contract work on ECTP.  Amongst government officials, who have employed Mr. Arzt to do campaign work, include Julie Menin.  Ms. Menin employed Mr. Arzt in her unsuccessful campaign last year for the office of Manhattan Borough President.  In an ironic move, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Ms. Menin last April as commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.