After a series of incidents stemming from the county’s computer-aided dispatch system have compromised the safety of Madison residents, Mayor Paul Soglin and other officials called for action to address the issues in a press conference Tuesday.
Soglin held the meeting on behalf of the Madison Fire Department and the Madison Police Department in response to two specific incidents that left officers especially concerned.
In one situation, a woman had to wait an hour for emergency medical services to arrive after her husband had a heart attack. In another, an officer was dispatched on a call for individuals with weapons but was not given any description of the suspects and thus was at unnecessary risk, Soglin said.
Soglin said the dispatch system has numerous issues. Some examples included officers being dispatched to an incorrect or non-existing location, a lack of backup assistance when needed and delays between the time of an emergency call and when dispatch was sent.
“This is not a question of getting along or compromise. There is zero tolerance for these mistakes,” Soglin said. “Every single one of them must be addressed and we must ensure they do not happen again.”
These types of issues began to appear in the system as far back as December 2011, Soglin said.
Madison Communications Supervisor Keith Lippert said a main issue is the technology itself. He said the city is trying to install new technology that is not completely compatible with city radio systems. These new systems are being installed a year-and-a-half late, and are not expected to operate effectively anytime soon, he said.
Fire Chief Steve Davis said when the computer-aided dispatch system began in April 2013, officials expected kinks because the system had not been fully tested. He said the city now needs to solve these problems in the system through connecting the computer-aided dispatch with city communications centers.
Interim MPD Chief Randy Gaber said while any new system may have issues, this newest technology has been around since April of last year, and bugs should be fixed immediately.
Davis said there should be a six-minute response time from the moment when a person places an emergency call to when the fire department is on the scene. He said he has seen this process take more than an hour.
He added that every 30 seconds a fire is left burning, it doubles in size. Davis said at best, the timing issue will take a month to fix.
Soglin said the issues with the system may also be the fault of the equipment vendors. He said other large cities such as Charleston, S.C.; San Antonio, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla. are experiencing similar problems. However, more staffing and training on the geography of the city of Madison should be mandated for those working in the call center, he said.
“I am simply concerned about every resident in this city, every visitor to this city and every man and woman who protect them,” Soglin said. “There is zero tolerance. We cannot have one mistake that leads to a delay or lack of information.”