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PR- 200-09
May 6, 2009


Streamlined Call-taking Process Will Reduce the Time to Dispatch Emergency Units

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that the first phase of integrated call taking operations between the Police and Fire Departments have been successfully implemented in the City’s 911 centers. Unified Call Taking streamlines the call taking process to reduce call handling time for fire calls and allow first responders to reach New Yorkers in an emergency more quickly. This change will affect over 180,000 911 calls per year. Unified Call Taking is the most significant accomplishment to-date of the City’s Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP), which is designed to centralize and integrate the call taking and dispatch operations among the NYPD, FDNY, and FDNY EMS.

“Now when you call 911 to report a fire, you will speak to only to one call taker, and give the address and nature of your emergency only one time,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By cutting out the middle-man in the process, we will shorten the time it takes for the Fire Department to begin its response to emergencies, which could save lives. I want to thank the inter-agency team whose hard work and cooperation made these improvements possible.”

“Police Communications Technicians– already trained to field different types of police emergencies – are now equipped to begin the dispatch process for emergency situations that require FDNY response,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “Last year they handled 11.3 million 911 calls, so eliminating mere seconds means more New Yorkers can get help sooner, and ultimately translates into lives saved.”

“Seconds count in an emergency, and this new procedure will save seconds, and ultimately save lives,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “By streamlining the call-taking process, we can dispatch our first responders more quickly and improve the vital life-saving service they provide to New Yorkers.”

“The true promise of technology is realized when it is used to improve lives for the better, and Unified Call Taking is among the City’s most transformative IT projects in this regard,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul Cosgrave.  “This initiative is a critical step in putting world-class emergency call taking and dispatch tools in the hands of our first responders as they serve and protect New Yorkers.”

Under the old system, when an emergency caller phoned 911, the call was answered by an NYPD call taker who collected caller and incident information. If the caller was reporting a fire, the police call taker would initiate a conference call with an FDNY call taker and repeat the process. The FDNY Call Taker would collect similar FDNY-related information from the caller and forward that information to a third person, an FDNY Dispatcher, to trigger the appropriate response. 

Under Unified Call Taking, improved technology and training allow the police call taker to collect both NYPD and FDNY incident information and then electronically share and coordinate the appropriate emergency response with dispatchers from either agency, which allows the caller to give the information one time to one call taker, rather than multiple times to multiple call takers. This elimination of a redundant step for FDNY calls saves time in processing the caller’s critical information and will reduce the overall response to the call.

The implementation of Unified Call Taking is the first major milestone of the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) , a multi-year initiative to enhance call taking and dispatch operations for NYPD, FDNY and FDNY EMS. Under the program, each agency will benefit from upgraded computer dispatch systems, improved integration and data sharing between agencies, new 911 telephony networks and software, and other significant improvements.

  “This project is an innovative collaboration between the NYPD and FDNY and is a testament to the vision, professionalism and effective cooperation of our public safety agencies in supporting the needs of New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler. “Unified Call Taking is a major step forward in our Emergency Communications Transformation Program, and it is a tremendous accomplishment.”

In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg asked Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler to chair an Emergency Communications Transformation Project working group to set goals, speed-up decision-making, and monitor the progress of this important public safety initiative. The working group is staffed by the Police, Fire, Citywide Administrative Services, Information Technology & Telecommunications, and Design and Construction departments as well as the Offices of Management and Budget and Labor Relations.  The working group deals with all aspects of the project, from site and technology acquisition, interagency protocols and facility management.

After Unified Call Taking, the next major milestone in the Emergency Communications Transformation Program is the creation of the first Public Safety Answering Center (PSAC 1) in Brooklyn. That facility, which combines the call-taking and dispatching operations of the Police and Fire Departments, will be fully staffed by the fall.

A second, backup, Public Safety Answering Center (PSAC 2) will be built in the Bronx. Each PSAC facility will have the capacity to support the entirety of the City’s 911 operations in the event of an emergency.  Construction on the Bronx site is expected to begin later this year.


Stu Loeser/Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

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