Followup Investigation: 9-1-1 Dispatchers in Need of Help

Followup Investigation: 9-1-1 Dispatchers in Need of Help


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Debbie Dujanovic ReportingNew allegations, accusations, and internal documents. An Eyewitness News Investigation uncovers more troubles at a 9-1-1 dispatch center. We showed you a list of problems at Valley Emergency Communications last night. We've been flooded with emails and phone calls suggesting we take an even closer look.

New insights tonight reveal new information about internal struggles at the 9-1-1 dispatch center. At issue is a computer system that's left a trail of errors and caused bitter battles.

Dear Dispatch, police officers wrote, “Please stop losing us on the streets, we like to go home at night…did anyone get trained on this?”

The first shot was fired in frustration over a computer system at Valley Emergency Communications. Eyewitness News has learned managers bought the system despite warning from employees who tested it and spotted serious problems.

How does it affect you? Valley Emergency Communications handles all 9-1-1 calls for county residents living outside Salt Lake City. Today, a former supervisor wrote us, “That same computer system is responsible for many dispatching errors,” and questions whether its cost lives. Without warning it can alter an address, for example, confusing 1300 east for 1300 west.

Today we received examples of critical errors:

  • An incident on I-215, crews went to the west-side, the victim was on the east-side.
  • The system confusing Wasatch Street in Murray for Wasatch Boulevard several miles east.
  • A fire at 500 west interpreted by the system as 5500 West, causing a 15-minute delay.
  • A fire on the west-side, in South Jordan, crews ended up in east Sandy.

One dispatcher says the system struggles to find addresses in parts of Midvale, Sandy, and along the freeways.

An internal memo obtained tonight by Eyewitness News confirms the center's managers have known about the computer errors for three-years. We've learned the system is finally under review with 60 problems identified.

Our investigation pointed to other problems at the center: hours of overtime, faulty equipment, high turnover, short-staffing. In response, board member, and South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, called for changes at the top.

Steve Foote, Chief, South Salt Lake Fire Dept.: "I think we need some aggressive leadership put in place out there. I think we need a sense of direction and purpose, it's an us against them mentality and that's sad to see. People need to develop a sense of teamwork. We're all in this for the same ultimate cause, to provide service for our citizens."

Board members say our investigation will speed up the hiring process for a new director; the former resigned this summer. Also, swift changes are promised about other problems our investigation identified. We'll keep you posted.

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