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San Francisco’s New $3.4 Million Emergency Dispatch System Dealing With Glitches

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — First responders in San Francisco are dealing with a crucial communications breakdown. KPIX 5 has learned the city’s brand new emergency dispatch system is full of glitches.

The idea was a new $3.4 million software upgrade to improve communication between San Francisco’s 911 Center, the police department, and fire department. But almost from the minute the switch was flipped, there were problems with how the new system talks between computers and squad cars.

“It can’t exactly obtain information needed to respond for calls of service. The information is in bits and pieces…and the information is not all consistent,” said Officer Albie Esparza of the San Francisco Police Department.

As a result, in this high-tech age, police on the streets have to use their radios, which Esparza said creates another problem.

“When you use the radio traffic for calls for service, it doesn’t free up the air for an officer that might have an emergency,” Esparza said.

And it’s not just the police. Some fire stations need someone to monitor the radio as well.

“It’s not what we want to do, but it’s always plan B,” said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

“As with any complex IT project, there is always going to be glitches,” said Francis Zamora of San Francisco Emergency Management. “There is always going to be issues that come about. That’s why we have a support team in place to deal with them.”

As the city deals with the problem, it’s back to basics for the police.

“Essentially the officers have to write things down more than before,” he said. “On paper, so that they make sure they get the information right.”

“There are issues that are being worked on, and overall emergency response hasn’t been affected by it,” Zamora said.

City officials said they do not know when the problem will be fixed. Around twenty people from the dispatch system’s manufacturer are helping in the effort to fix the problem.

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