FDNY, NYPD Temporarily Change 911 System

NY 1 - November 21, 2009

As the New York Police Department and Fire Department announced a temporary change to the controversial new 911 system Friday, a community in Brooklyn showed its support for a woman whose family was killed in a fire earlier this week. Lawmakers and neighbors have created a fund to help Rose Etienne, seen above.

Etienne's husband, 42-year-old Myrtel Jean, and their two young sons, aged one and two, died Wednesday afternoon in a Crown Heights fire that investigators believe may have started from burning incense. Jean's apartment also had no smoke detectors.

"I always pray, 'God give me strength,' because I hope one day I see them again," said Etienne.

Some have questioned the FDNY's response time to the blaze, after fire units initially showed up a block away.

Someone from a nearby school saw flames shooting out of the apartment's window and dialed 911, saying, "I do not know the address. I'm inside a building. I'm looking out the window and there's a fire out the window."

The caller than gave the wrong intersection.

Almost immediately, a controversy sparked regarding the city's six-month-old 911 system.

The firefighters' union complained that the Unified Call Taking System is not effective. With the new system, when someone calls to report a fire, a police dispatcher answers and sends an electronic message to a fire dispatcher.

The FDNY implemented a temporary fix Friday. Now, a fire dispatcher will also listen in on the call to ensure firefighters get the vital information they need. The goal is to provide additional training for police dispatchers still familiarizing themselves with their new responsibility.

"Enough is enough. People are dying and I have people who can do a professional job for the citizens of New York and they're using people who can't do that," said David Rosenzweig of the Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association.

Officials say the change isn't expected to increase response times, but will help call takers get accurate information before heading to a scene.

The change starts Sunday and will be in effect until the fire and police departments say it's no longer necessary.

Fund For Brooklyn Family Affected By Fire City Councilmembers Letitia James and Mathieu Eugene and other local leaders have created a fund for Rose Etienne Jean, who lost her husband and two sons in the Wednesday fire in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Donations for the Jean family can be sent to: Carver Federal Savings Bank 4 Hanson Place Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Please make checks payable to Monique Jean, c/o Rose Etienne Jean. Deposits can also be made at any branch, and on-line transfers are accepted.