The city is facing an emergency, according to elected officials, but they may not want to dial 9-1-1.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, penned a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling for a review into 9-1-1’s failure during Superstorm Sandy, when many residents were unable to reach the emergency number.
“During the crisis, many callers experienced hold times of over an hour. Some gave up on 9-1-1 altogether, instead calling elected officials’ offices regarding evacuations and other life-threatening emergencies,” the letter read. “This is not the mark of a perfectly-run system.”
After the New York Post published report on the troubles callers faced, Bloomberg responded that the system “functioned perfectly” during the storm.
“Are you ever going to have enough operators to take all the calls when all of a sudden everybody calls? No, of course not,” he said at a press conference on November 19.
Officials urged residents to use 3-1-1 for non-emergencies during the storm, as 9-1-1 was receiving upwards of 20,000 calls per hour. The system usually handles approximately 30,000 calls per day.
“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,” de Blasio and Crowley wrote.
The 9-1-1 system was overhauled in 2009, receiving more than $2 billion in upgrades.
Sandy does not mark the first time the handling of 9-1-1 calls has come into question.
During the blizzard in December of 2010, many complained of slow response times after calling 9-1-1, prompting a review of the system.
In May, the city released a Winbourne Consulting report that was highly critical of 9-1-1’s inefficiencies.
“The city must seriously analyze the system’s shortcomings and seek answers that will help us better prepare for future disasters,” wrote de Blasio and Crowley.