ST. JOSEPH COUNTY —
Eight computer outages in less than five weeks. That’s the latest problem St. Joseph County dispatchers are facing when answering your 911 emergencies.
The problem started when trying to fix other issues.
There was a computer upgrade on October 24 to fix some of the more than 30 issues listed by the center’s executive director. However, since the upgrade, there have been eight computer outages, and one even lasted 10 hours.
Now, some leaders are more than ready to toss the $3 million software that was only purchased three years ago.
When Daniel Tinkel gets a 911 call, he puts the address and other information into a computerized system that helps dispatch first responders to a scene.
But Wednesday, he got different messages instead: The system was down.
“It’s stressful,” said Tinkel. “It makes a long shift longer.”
“We had one where it was a domestic violence and it stopped working,” said Raymond Schultz, executive director. “Our dispatcher was literally in tears.”
Schultz says computer outages slow down response times. Dispatchers have to turn to pen and paper.
“My staff does an incredible job, but there’s only so many of us,” said Schultz. “It’s a very stressful time. It’s very frustrating. We feel for the money that we paid, we should have a very stable system that is able to do what it’s needed to do.”
The county spent $3 million on the system only a few years ago.
Schultz was not the director of the center at the time.
Chief of training for the Penn Township Fire Department Brian Kazmierzak says first responders warned the county that the system was flawed before they bought it. Things are getting worse.
“The level of frustration has reached the point of extreme,” said Brian Kazmierzak, “We are concerned that it’s either going to cost a citizen its life or it’s going to cost a responder its life at this point. The minute the CAD system goes down, we lose everything. We’re relying on the dispatcher to broadcast it over the radio and honestly we kind of become the dispatcher.”
Mishawaka mayor Dave Wood, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and County Commission president Andy Kostielney sit on the executive board.
Wood says he was against the purchase from the beginning and it’s now an officer safety issue. Wood says he is pushing for change sooner rather than later.
Kazmierzak says every minute lost matters.
“A minute or two is brain death when it comes to medical emergencies and lack of oxygen. A minute or two is fire growth when it comes to structure fire response,” said Kazmierzak.
A spokesperson for Mayor Buttigieg sent a statement saying: “Our priorities are to make sure that the PSAP operates smoothly and safely, and that taxpayer dollars are spent well. I have pressed staff and vendors alike to resolve problems in a collaborative fashion. This will continue to be my expectation, no matter who provides dispatch software to the center.”
Commissioner Andy Kostielney did not return WSBT’s calls for comment.
Mayor Wood hopes to schedule a meeting soon to discuss buying new software.