I-Team: Firefighters Say New 911 System Endangers Lives
CHELSEA (CBS) – The 911 system in Massachusetts has changed and is now supposed to give people with medical emergencies help right away.
It’s a story the I-Team first told you about this summer.
There is concern, however, valuable time is being lost in some cases with the way some communities have implemented the changes.
Harrowing moments seemed like hours inside a home in Chelsea as Patricia Lemoure’s father lay unconscious. She called 911 but was transferred from the city’s emergency dispatch center to a private ambulance company.
As a result, she had to repeat basic information several times. Richard Lemoure watched his wife struggle as time was lost. “It seemed like a long time that she was just put from one connection to another connection and they continued to ask her questions,” says Lemoure. “The same questions.”
Lamoure said he feels that precious seconds were lost.
Dispatchers in Chelsea don’t handle medical emergencies anymore. State regulations now require those calls to be handled by personnel trained to give basic medical information out over the phone.
Chelsea officials had the choice of training their staff or outsourcing the calls. They chose the latter, and Deputy Fire Chief John Quatieri doesn’t like it. He says, “Now those calls are being transferred out to a private company and that’s a delay, and once that call is transferred the dispatcher is starting the process all over again.”
Fire officials believe confusion and lost calls are happening way too frequently.
Quatieri thinks there have been situations in Chelsea in which lives have been lost as a result of this change.
Chelsea 911 director Allan Alpert agrees there can be a delay in getting the call to the right dispatcher now. But he told the I-Team city dispatchers would have been overwhelmed dispensing additional medical information, and that people are still adjusting to the new system.
“The end result, the 2-3 seconds that might be lost, is going to be made up by the quality of service that the caller is getting on the phone,” said Alpert.
The I-Team found 37 of the 256 emergency call systems are using private ambulance services. Still, Jonathan Epstein who overseas emergency systems north of Boston believes there are benefits. He thinks the new rules will save lives.
Richard Lemoure isn’t so sure, saying, “I don’t know if one or two minutes at that point would have made a difference in saving his life, but the time it that it took was aggravating my wife.”
This change to 911 is part of a national trend to provide initial medical support and make sure appropriate resources are sent on each call.
It is paid for by a surtax on your cell phone.