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How Intrado's ECRC Softened Sandy's Blow

Author: Lonna Cain

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content \

Date: 2013-12-04
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In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy made history as the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of that year’s Atlantic hurricane season. This “super storm” wreaked havoc up and down the East Coast with particularly devastating impact on New Jersey and New York. Despite extensive pre-storm planning, New York City was not fully prepared to deal with Sandy’s force. The storm surge hit the city on October 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power throughout the city and surrounding areas. The East River overflowed its banks. Battery Park had a water surge of 13.88 feet. Seawater flooded the Ground Zero construction site. And in Chelsea, the façade of a four-story building crumbled and collapsed, exposing the entire interior of the building.

On a typical day, the NYC 9-1-1 system processes about 30,000 emergency requests for assistance. The day Sandy hit, nearly 20,000 calls were received every hour. Not surprising, the system was overwhelmed, making it impossible for many people to reach a 9-1-1 call taker to get the help they needed. Halfway across the country, Intrado, a long-time provider of emergency communication services and solutions for Public Safety, was able to ease some of the impact of the storm by answering thousands of VoIP, telematics, satellite and wireless calls that were unable to reach New York City’s 9-1-1. The Intrado Emergency Call Relay Center (ECRC) took the calls, found out exactly where the callers were, determined the nature of the emergencies and redirected the calls to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).

Intrado’s ECRC was named Colorado Center of the Year by the Colorado Chapters of APCO and NENA for connecting thousands of East-coast callers to 9-1-1 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

For many Intrado customers, the ECRC functions as a “failover” option. When 9-1-1 calls, primarily generated from VoIP, telematics and satellite phones, are unable to get through to the appropriate PSAP for a variety of reasons, they can be redirected to the ECRC facility in Longmont, Colorado. The call-taking personnel at the ECRC are made up of former public safety professionals with experience working as dispatchers or call takers in a police department, fire department, ambulance company or PSAP. During Hurricane Sandy, the ECRC staff drew upon this experience in order to process a substantial increase in the number of calls for assistance.

On October 29th alone, the ECRC received nearly the same number of calls that were processed in the entire month of September with almost one-third of them coming between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. During the three most critical days of the storm and its aftermath, call volume increased more than tenfold with calls pertaining to shootings, house fires, domestic violence, fights and medical emergencies. Many of the ECRC staff worked through their planned days off, with others taking on 14-hour shifts.

In recognition of the work of the ECRC staff during the Hurricane Sandy emergency, the Colorado chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) named the Intrado Emergency Call Relay Center the Colorado Center of the Year. This was the first time this award has been given to a private company for their participation in an emergency event and it acknowledges the ECRC’s contribution. Past winners have included police departments and PSAPs involved with the Colorado Springs wild fires and the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting. As part of the award, the ECRC was given a $1,000 cash prize, which the center donated to a local non-profit organization to assist in the recovery efforts for the recent floods that devastated many Colorado communities, including Longmont, where Intrado is headquartered.

 

Lonna Cain is Intrado’s Director of Emergency Services and Support.  Intrado provides 9-1-1 support services for telecommunications providers and public safety agencies worldwide.   For more information, see www.intrado.com

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