Say 911 Wasn’t So ‘Perfect’ In Storm
Editor’s note: The following letter was originally sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg by the authors and was forwarded to the Times Newsweekly for publication. Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
We are writing to express deep disagreement with your recent comments that the city’s 911 system “functioned perfectly” during Hurricane Sandy and in its immediate aftermath.
During the crisis, many callers experienced hold times of over an hour. Some gave up on 911 altogether, instead calling elected officials’ offices regarding evacuations and other lifethreatening emergencies. This is not the mark of a perfectly-run system.
The city has asserted the current technology is capable of handling 50,000 calls per hour, and yet operators on hand were overwhelmed by the 20,000 hourly calls made during the storm’s peak. This is unacceptable.
The failure to resource 911 with adequate personnel to manage incoming calls is inexcusable. We had many days to prepare for Hurricane Sandy—every effort should have been taken to anticipate call volume. The failure to do so put the health and safety of New Yorkers at unnecessary risk.
Complacency will not help us prepare for future disasters. New York City spent $2 billion to develop a 911 system that could handle twice the number of calls that came in during Hurricane Sandy. But a failure to plan caused the system to fail, just as it failed during the December 2010 blizzard.
The city must seriously analyze the system’s shortcomings and seek answers that will help us better prepare for future disasters.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
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