I-Team: City promises all 911 operators will be medically trained

CINCINNATI - Every dispatcher assigned to answer 911 calls in Cincinnati will be medically trained by the end of this month, according to a letter from the city manager.

Milton Dohoney wrote to the mayor and city council that he had lifted the hiring freeze and ordered the immediate hiring of 10 new operator/dispatchers last week. Six to eight more positions will be filled by the fall, according to the letter.

The changes came a little more than a month after the I-Team first revealed serious staffing issues at the Cincinnati Emergency Communications Center. With 27 vacant positions amid a city hiring freeze, some operators and dispatchers were forced to work 16-hour shifts answering emergency calls.

The I-Team also exposed that many dispatchers assigned to answer 911 calls are not medically certified. Those without certification can do little more than dispatch an ambulance and disconnect the call. Managers were also pulling dispatchers off police radios to answer 911 calls which forced the combining of police channels.

The I-Team reports led council's public safety committee to hold a special hearing. Emergency Communications Manager Joel Estes was called before city council and he eventually asked the city to fully staff the center.

Dohoney's letter states all the new hires will receive emergency medical dispatch (EMD) certification, and that the six current dispatchers not yet certified will be trained along side them.

"Barring any unforeseen absences, all ECC floor personnel will have completed EMD training by 7/26/13," Dohoney wrote.

As a direct result of the I-Team investigation, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to take over the city's troubled 911 center. All operators in the Hamilton County Communications Center are certified emergency medical dispatchers.

The county's resolution was sent to the mayor and city council for their approval, but the city had already approved a similar measure more than three years ago. In an April 2010 motion, council directed the city manager to begin the merger process with the county. Three years later, the county has passed a nearly identical resolution.

The most recent study commissioned by the city and the county showed consolidation of 911 services would not only make residents safer, it would also save taxpayers $3 million a year.

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