Fire brigade says emergency calls going unanswered
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaicans RUSHING to ring 110, the number listed in the LIME directory for fire and ambulance response services, could be wasting precious time during an emergency.
Errol Mowatt, acting commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), said the 110 emergency number is unreliable and there is no guarantee that someone will be at the other end of the line to render assistance.
Members of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee were surprised yesterday at news that calling 110 to report a fire or request an ambulance could be an effort in futility.
"We have found out that the [number] is highly unreliable … . When a call is made to that system, there is no guarantee that it will be answered promptly, we have tested and proven that that is so."
He also pointed out that there are challenges in terms of directing the response teams to the correct location, a problem that could result in extended delays.
According to Mowatt, the JFB does not have a central dispatching system comparable to the emergency 119 operated by the police.
"It is highly unacceptable that you can have an emergency number and when [people] dial it, [they] might get through or not, and even when they get through, the system is so inefficient that they could send them (fire brigade) to the wrong address. Oh, my God!" committee Chairman Audley Shaw exclaimed.
He vowed to pen a letter to Local Government Minister Noel Arscott encouraging him to take urgent steps to deal with the matter.
Mowatt said the brigade had approached the Government in the past, recommending the establishment of a central dispatching system.
"What the Government has been considering for the past six years or so is a central dispatching unit that includes the police, the fire brigade and the ambulance service.
"So what works now is that somebody calls 110, they might not answer, they (fire victims) have to rush to the phonebook - if they can find it before the fire burn it up - to look for the phone number for the nearest fire station?" Shaw queried.
But LIME is blaming the inefficiency of the emergency line on "the high levels of prank calls to the 110 service". Additionally, LIME said, "Persons calling 110 to get to the police, instead of dialling 119, create more service delays. This has unavoidably impacted service levels."
At the same time, LIME said that its current service level metrics show that 95 per cent of the calls made to 110 are answered within 20 seconds and an estimated one per cent of calls are abandoned. It said it continues to make arrangements to improve the service.
Mowatt said the JFB has sought to sensitise the public about how to contact its various fire station by placing the numbers on its fire trucks.
"Most of our calls currently go directly to a fire station," he added.