9 On Your Side Continuing Coverage
TFD: 911 center operating efficiently, dependably
A look at the progress at the city's communications center
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – More than three months after the Tucson Fire takeover of the troubled 911 call center, the department says it has made great strides.
“I am confident that the Fire Communication Center is now operating at the expected level of efficiency and dependability,” Fire Chief Jim Critchley wrote in a memo to Tucson mayor and council on November 15.
Previous 9 On Your Side Investigations highlighted issues at the communications center since the system upgrade in late May, including faulty equipment, low morale, and overworked operators and dispatchers.
Last week, KGUN9 News learned about the wrongful death notice against the city of Tucson by the parents of Janae Lugo, the 10-year-old girl who suffered an asthma attack and passed away after paramedics got to her too late.
Armando Lugo and Tracey Vollberg are filing claims with the city and the Northwest Fire District, saying glitches and untrained operators cost them valuable time during an emergency, resulting in the death of their daughter.
However, many say that tragedy sped up changes at the call center that have improved public safety.
“Our heart just breaks for the family. We got a little girl and I can’t even imagine the pain they’re going through. We’ve put that to bed though in terms of the problems that led to that,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik, whom many 911 workers credit with calling attention to problems at the center.
Tucson Fire said it will not be granting any interviews because of pending litigation and because of the updates it has already provided throughout the transition process. However, the department did provide memos to KGUN9 News on the progress at the center.
They include the 19 categories of technical glitches that TFD identified, whittled down to just two that can’t be resolved. One requires the state to upgrade its system; the other involves multiple dispatchers to monitor calls -- and is limited by the current equipment.
“All indications show that morale continues to improve,” Critchley said in the September 27th update. According to various sources, allowing workers to give input on the changes has indeed boosted morale at the center.
Tucson Fire has also filled all operator positions, while hiring more dispatchers – although extensive training time still poses a challenge in terms of staffing levels. Nevertheless, improved staffing has lowered stress for current employees.
Reporter Claire Doan asked Kozachik about any tangible proof that assures people their public safety isn’t jeopardized.
“Well, they’ve made technical changes to the system,” Kozachik responded. “They’ve listened to frontline employees and they’ve taken that to heart. They’ve gone out, got some new technology and implemented it.”
Kozachik said Critchley made good on his promise of transparency, giving bi-weekly updates to mayor and council. Furthermore, workers are no longer under a gag order and are able to talk to anyone they choose.
Other changes since the TFD takeover include a customer service phone line to report issues with the 911 system as well as shifting administrative duties to Tucson Fire Staff, which allows line supervisors to better focus on what’s happening on the call center floor.
“So this is really a point when we can close the book on a chapter at the 911 center,” Kozachik said.