Delay Attributed to Inexact Address in Dallas Officer's Crash


 
 

Tanya Eiserer | | Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Dallas Fire-Rescue officials say a five-minute delay between the time that fire dispatchers learned a motorcycle officer had crashed and paramedics were first told to go to the scene occurred because they were having trouble getting a good address for the Houston Street viaduct.

"We have to have an exact address or intersection," Fire Section Chief David Kinney said during a Monday news conference also attended by Fire Chief Eddie Burns and fire and police public information officers at Jack Evans Police Headquarters.

Fire officials said they needed an exact address so the city's new automated dispatch system could tell them which of their emergency workers could respond the quickest to the accident scene.

But the incident has raised questions about whether fire department officials waited too long for an automated dispatch system to tell them what to do. A phone call was made from police dispatchers directly to fire dispatchers about five minutes before their emergency vehicles were sent to the scene.

A faster response probably would not have saved Senior Cpl. Victor Lozada, who was performing a standard high-speed "leapfrog" maneuver while escorting presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to an Oak Cliff rally about 9:15 a.m. Friday when he lost control of his motorcycle.

Colleagues radioed to police dispatchers for help at 9:18 a.m. But police dispatchers were having trouble getting the automated dispatch system to generate a "call sheet" -- a request for help -- because the system did not recognize the addresses they were trying to enter for where the accident occurred.

At the same time, police dispatch officials used a direct telephone line called the "ring down line" to contact fire dispatch, telling them that an officer had been badly injured on the viaduct. Fire officials received that call at 9:21 a.m., records show.

Chief Kinney said that without a good address, the system could not determine which emergency workers were closest to the scene. He also said there would have been a risk that the emergency workers would not have been sent to the right spot on the viaduct and that additional minutes would have been lost.

"We wanted the [computer-aided dispatch system] to pick the closest unit," Chief Kinney said.

The viaduct is a bridge about one mile long over open space.

A police dispatcher successfully generated an electronic call sheet at 9:24 a.m. by entering an incorrect address for the viaduct: The automated dispatch system uses addresses from the city's geographic mapping file, but at least a portion of the viaduct is incorrectly labeled as being on North Houston Street instead of South Houston Street. The dispatcher noted in the call comments that rescuers should go to the viaduct.

Two minutes after receiving the electronically generated call sheet, the fire department began sending emergency crews. A crew arrived on scene about four minutes later, well within the city's emergency response goals.


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