Francisco Martinez, an EMS worker with Battalion 4 for six years, said one of their chiefs had to be rescued when the station she was working in flooded, because she was told they were not allowed to leave.
“This is very disgraceful,” he said. “The people that are meant to be helping the city needed help and our management did not allow for that to happen.”
Many first responders spoke of similar incidents, where the administration denied their request for evacuation before the hurricane hit. This resulted in some emergency crews having to be rescued themselves from raising floodwaters.
At a press conference on the steps of City Hall last week before the City Council's first hearing on the city's response to the storm, first responders also criticized the 911 system.
“Very often, when a call comes in there’s a lot of information that is either missing or is not clear,” said Martinez. “If a call requires multiple resources such as fireman, police or EMS, very often we have different information.”
During the hearing, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Service Committee, demanded answers for why the responders were not given the information they needed to do their jobs during the hurricane
Deputy Mayor of Operations Caswell Holloway admitted that the average response time for 2012 was 5:01, while the average response time during the hurricane was roughly 7:00, but said the system didn't fail.
“There is no data that I have that shows that jobs during the storm were misrouted,” Holloway said. “There was a tremendous volume of calls, but the 911 technology itself did not fail in any way”
Crowley said that all of the problems with the 911 system are unknown because an indecent survey regarding the system has not been fully released. She claims that the city has been called to release the study, but has not done so completely.
“The system doesn’t work,” said Faye Smyth, president of the Fire Alarm Dispatcher Benevolent Association. “Our computer doesn’t talk to the Police Department's computer.”