CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM has found at least eight 9-1-1 calls were missed and police work on the streets practically came to a halt when smoke started filtering into the Cleveland 9-1-1 center.
It happened early Monday morning. City Hall says the building was not evacuated. But a FOX 8 camera found dispatchers and others gathered outside in the cold after firefighters were called, dispatchers can be heard on radio tapes saying the building was evacuated, and some dispatchers even drove with a police escort to a county 9-1-1 center to get ready to use a back-up operation.
On the radio tapes, a dispatcher sends a message to all officers on patrol to let them know no one can answer citizen calls for help or patrol chatter from the streets. You hear, "They just evacuated radio. No traffic stops. No enforcement unless somebody's in danger. Unless you have a crisis….one of your people on a medical emergency, or anything right now, we can't take any calls."
This simply marks the latest problem for a 9-1-1 system that has not been there again and again when you’ve needed it. Before now, the system has been plagued by technical problems.
We’ve shown you, one family couldn’t get through and even drove to a fire station to get help. Still, a man died.
The city and county have made technical improvements, but then this.
In this latest case, the city says there was no actual fire. For some reason, the smoke came from a room filled with back-up batteries. And despite all that happened, city spokesman Dan Williams told the I TEAM, “Everything pretty much worked the way it was supposed to."
The Cleveland Police Union certainly disagrees with that. Steve Loomis said, “The fact that there was a lot of confusion up there is troublesome." He added, "We should be prepared for worst case scenarios, and again in this city, we are not prepared for worst case scenarios."
It's not clear how long the smoke incident disrupted Cleveland 9-1-1. The city says only a few minutes. But those dispatchers who went to the county 9-1-1 center didn’t even arrive there until about 45 minutes after the incident began. Then they turned around and came back.
One thing the city and the dispatchers agree on: the Cleveland 9-1-1 center needs to have drills and come up with specific procedures for when the emergency is in that building.