9 On Side Side Investigates
Tucson's 911 system troubles
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A critical city service that could save your life has been full of problems.
It's the City of Tucson's new 911 system.
It has been so full of bugs, it may have caused a young girl's death by leading dispatchers to send an ambulance to the wrong address.
9 On Your Side used the Arizona Open Records law to demand documents to cast light on whether city officials knew they'd have trouble and when they knew it.
Now we have those documents.
Since it went on line May 25th, the most reliable thing about Tucson's new 911 system has been a reliable stream of trouble reports about the system itself.
But there's no going back to the old system. It's been shut down and torn out.
Before the installation, the contractor, Qwest's report on the installation, formally outlined only two concerns:
That the equipment might not arrive on time, and the city facilities might not be ready for it.
But people who knew the system knew it was headed for trouble.
Councilmember Steve Kozachik has been hearing from them. He says, "The management has already conceded to your station that they expected problems. And the fact is they told (KGUN9 reporter) Jessica Chapin in one of the interviews that the problems exceeded their expectations."
Kozachik has been pushing to learn how such a critical system could have such serious troubles.
The city began using the new system May 25. A memo dated the next day shows work stations were shutting down---going to sleep. It turns out the phones had firmware too old to work with the system. They were upgraded to firmware, the Tucson Police system had been using for the last four years.
Thirteen days into the new system, reports showed when people in trouble called in, the system couldn't always display the caller's number and location.
Twenty one days into the system, reports show work on that problem was completed.
But Councilmember Kozachik says he knows better.
"As recently as today caller location and number indicators have been dropped or are just not showing up and this is for hours on end. They had three stations go down yesterday for the second day in a row."
KGUN9 News has heard from viewers concerned that when the caller locators do work they may only show up on one dispatchers screen---that means dispatchers can't catch each other's mistakes.
Kozachik says the system does lack that sort of two-screen back-up.
And here's another concern, you remember the discovery that firmware for the phones was more than four years old. The entire system is designed to run on Windows XP or Windows 2000, operating systems so old Microsoft is dropping support for them.