911 “Operator Error” – on the front lines, or in upper management?by Golda Velez on Aug. 19, 2011, under Community, Politics & Government, public safety
Ron Lewis is quoted in the Arizona Daily Star as saying “Qwest has been unable to document any ‘truly’ dropped call that wasn’t the result of a hangup or operator error.”
Meanwhile, front line operators are filing problem after problem with their supervisors, providing detailed information about dropped calls, calls that wouldn’t transfer, and the inability to hear callers:
7/15 7:25:15 PM “Call was disconnected in the middle of questioning. It was a child caller reporting his mom having a seizure. Very frustrating!”
“Would not transfer using ‘MED’ or ‘MED CELL’ transfer button”…”Unable to transfer to TPD” …”Transferred caller to TPD using genovation pad. After 3 rings it stopped ringing”…”As soon as the call was picked up …, call was disconnected. This happened twice!”…”Anytime I log off to go on break or give a break or first time logging in the first caller [reports] that calls can’t hear me.”
Michael LaFond, a 911 operator with 17 years experience and fired after reporting errors with the new system, confirmed the same problems. As many as 4 or 5 times per shift, LaFond experienced “serious things like losing sound – so I have a caller on the line and I cannot hear the person speaking. When I go back and hear the recording, they could hear me, they were talking, but I couldn’t hear them. So they were on the line and they were unable to get help. There was a caller that was having an emergency and I was unable to transfer the call.”
Specifically, LaFond was fired for researching the June 1 call that ended in the death of a 10-year old girl.
Why would researching a serious problem be a fireable offence if the department were not trying to cover up issues?
KGUN9 news found out in an interview that ‘Operators say they were told to log any unexplained troubles as “Code 17″ and later found “Code 17″ was the tag for operator errors.’. So when Ron Lewis as General Services director reported to the city council that ‘most of the problems were operator error’ this is just what operators were directed to record things as!
We need to fix the problems. I hope that fire chief Jim Critchley will take those seriously and be able to solve them, whether it takes going back to the old system, leaning on QWest and Motorola to fix the Meridian ACD, or replacing faulty hardware. But we can’t fix them by hiding them, and Tucson may have bigger problems than just the 911 system. We need to take a hard look at how this was handled by our local managers – Mike Letcher, Ron Lewis and Isaiah Twombly, I understand are the managers in charge. And we need to fight back hard against the state legislature to stop them from taking funds that are critical to our community. Thanks to City Council member Steve Kozachik for standing up for public safety and the front line workers some of this has gotton exposed, but he can’t do it alone. What is your ward council member doing about it?
See 911 Tucson for the in-depth report. I spent about an hour on 8/18 talking to Michael LaFond, and his passion and dedication to public safety really shone through. We need more people like Michael LaFond working for the city of Tucson, but instead we have one less.