Emergency Personnel Disciplined, Procedures to be Changed Following 911 Miscue
Story Updated 7:51AM Saturday, August 18, 2012
- Allison Goldsberry
Mayor Michael McGlynn and Fire Chief Frank Giliberti announced the results of an investigation into the Fire Department’s failure to respond to a medical emergency on July 13. Both the police and ambulance responded to the call, which involved a fatality.
“Public safety is and always has been a top priority in this community. Something obviously went wrong. It is my goal to insure that the facts determined through this review and the corrective action taken will make sure that this never happens again. The question of why the ambulance and the Police did respond to this 911 call and the Fire Department did not is one that had to be answered definitively and swiftly. I am confident that we have done so,” said Mayor McGlynn in a press release sent by City Solicitor Mark Rumley.
According to the release, both Armstrong Ambulance and the Medford Police Department responded to a call for medical assistance on that day but the Fire Department failed to respond. Chief Giliberti conducted a review of all personnel involved, and two outside specialists, David Troup, a communications specialist with the Boston Police Department, and Ken Pitts, Public Safety Systems Manager for Cambridge’s Emergency Communications Department, were enlisted to determine if there was a computer or mechanical failure in the transmission from the 911 center to the neighborhood station.
Pitts said “the proper use of the Zetron System should have resulted in the stations being alerted by being ‘toned out and those events being logged,’” and “there is no indication that this happened.” In addition, while the records reflected that the fire apparatus was placed “on location,” it never actually arrived on the scene.
The Fire Alarm Operator on duty that night said he “presumed” the fire apparatus was “on location” because the ambulance responded that they were on scene, which resulted in disciplinary action against him. Chief Giliberti imposed a suspension of ninety-six hours of duty on the Fire Alarm Operator for failing to put out the station alert through the Zetron System and for “presuming” that the fire apparatus was on location when in fact it was not. Chief Giliberti found the Fire Alarm Operator’s actions to demonstrate “unacceptable performance and judgment.”
It was determined the Fire Alarm Operator did in fact alert the neighborhood fire station using the radio system, but the radio alert wasn’t heard by three firefighters even though each had a working radio. Chief Giliberti issued a written reprimand to the three firefighters, and said it was “unacceptable” the firefighters didn’t keep the radio volume high enough. The portable radios are used as a “fail safe” in case other forms of communication don’t work or aren’t available.
Chief Giliberti has made several recommendations to ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen again. He suggested testing both the Zetron and radio systems twice daily; integrating the Computer Aided Dispatch (C.A.D.) with the Zetron station alert system; modifying the C.A.D. system to track responding apparatus; installing a network clock to integrate with all systems; reviewing the overall operation of the E-911 Center; enforcing the policy that radios are to be on and audible at all times; reaffirming the policy that commanding officers have authority to secure emergency repairs to ensure public safety; and instituting a “station watch” on every shift.