Tulsa Firefighters Delayed On Calls Due To Computer Problems

Wednesday, January 8th 2014, 5:54 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A problem at Tulsa's 911 center led to some delays in firefighters being dispatched on calls.

The system is supposed to sound alarms and open the doors at fire stations.

But that part of it hasn't worked the way it should since the city installed a new dispatch system.

At the 911 Center, the flow of information is critical for a quick response, but there have been some problems in getting calls relayed to fire stations.

Automatic systems to sound the alarm and print out the address aren't working, so firefighters have to listen to radios to find out what's happening and where.

The firefighters union considers it a life safety issue.

Chad Miller, of the Local 176, said, "Anytime that signal comes back, there's a delay. In the case of a house fire, every minute the fire doubles in size, so if there's a delay, our guys are walking into a larger fire."

Even with an unusual number of fires and medical calls because of the weather, no one can say for sure if it's made a difference in the outcome at a fire, or even in the firefighters getting out of the station.

Scott Clark, TFD Deputy Fire Chief, said, "We were having some delays, but we have redundancies in place, so we've been working closely with 911 to make sure that no one was delay notified."

The dispatch system with the problem is designed to help information flow between fire, police and EMSA.

Most of it, according to the city, works better than the system it replaced, but with bugs remaining; it's undergoing testing more than a year after it was turned on.

"We did a test Monday that was not successful and then we did a test today [Wednesday] that worked flawlessly, so we're hopeful," Clark said. "I don't know if we're confident, but we're hopeful that once we run this a few days that we'll be good."

The union is sounding the alarm that more needs to be done to make sure that calls go through as fast as they can.

The deputy chief says they believe the system is finally working at the 911 center.

They'll work on the systems at the fire stations starting next week.