Communications crisis: What's going on in NYC?

When we pick up that radio or look at the MDT or laptop, we shouldn't have to wonder whether it's working the way it should

Communications is the lifeblood of an emergency response. To be more precise, transmitting information quickly, easily and seamlessly among emergency responders should be a transparent effort.

When we pick up that radio or look at the MDT or laptop, we shouldn't have to wonder whether it's working the way it should.

At the micro level, the New York system probably works the way it should — receiving calls, dispatching and tracking units and data. But a role of a communication system is so much larger than that.

It has to be able to record a tremendous amount of data for analysis and quality improvement. It's disturbing that officials are not able to tell how quickly they are responding to calls for service.

It's not the actual numbers themselves per se; it's the lack of processes and consistency that is causing the lack of hard, reliable data.

There has to be interoperability. Especially in a very large, densely populated city system like New York, that responds to millions of service calls; relying solely on humans to try to keep up with each and not taking advantage of technology sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Ironically, the lack of communication has been cited as major issues in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. If the issues haven't been resolved by now, I'd be more than nervous right now — I'd be furious.

While there is a bit of sensationalism in the reporting, the bulk of this story should be ringing major alarm bells throughout the city's administration.

Put egos aside and for once just try to work together in creating a 911 system that works for the citizens and visitors of a great city and protects its emergency responders. They all deserve it.

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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