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Mix-Ups in 911 Routing Targeted

March 05, 2003|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

As a result of a routing mistake last week that sent paramedics to Sylmar instead of Pacoima to help a child who was having seizures, fire officials said Tuesday they will change the way dispatchers deal with confusion over addresses.

On Feb. 25, a Los Angeles Fire Department dispatcher sent paramedics to an old address, which was displayed by the 911 database that ties phone numbers to addresses.

Verizon Inc., which is responsible for updating the database, and the Fire Department have begun their own investigations into why the former address was displayed.

In a recording of the call, the dispatcher and panicked family members of 18-month old Isabel Del Toro can be heard arguing over the correct address.

Family members insisted they lived on El Dorado Avenue; the dispatcher insisted their address was on West Foothill Boulevard.

While trying to calm the family, the dispatcher asked about landmarks as she tried to determine where to send paramedics.

The recording suggests the dispatcher assumed both addresses were in the same general area because they shared the same cross street.

The streets, however, were miles from each other, fire officials said.

The dispatcher searched for the address by magnifying a computerized map, but for the first few minutes of the call she could not find the right street because she was focusing on the neighborhood around the family's old address.

About six minutes into the call, the dispatcher realized the two addresses were in different areas and sent paramedics to the correct address, Fire Chief William Bamattre said.

Paramedics arrived about 11 minutes and 40 seconds into the call, just as the girl's condition stabilized.

She is home and doing well, officials said.

Bamattre said when address discrepancies arise, emergency dispatchers will now be required to key the address they receive over the phone into the database to get a map of that location.

In the past, they had the option of doing that or enlarging and scrolling through a map.

"The ability to tie the address to the phone number is not always something that's foolproof. It's something that is still improving," Bamattre said.

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