GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - You expect help fast when you call 911, but problems with the new dispatch system used in Kent County is costing precious time in emergencies. And Grand Rapids isn't the first city to find the Motorola PremierOne CAD dispatch system less than premier.
More than a hundred pages of complaints about the new system obtained by Target 8 in May describe computers freezing up, some crews being dispatched to nowhere, and other crews never being notified of an emergency. One "trouble report" about the response to a call of smoke in the basement of a restaurant read, "What a mess. No squads sent. Wow."
"That is what people understand 911 is there for, is that if I call for help, I'm getting help and they need to get the quickest help possible," said Joe DuBay, president of the Grand Rapids Firefighters Union.
But he said it appears that's not always happening now.
DuBay broke his silence after Target 8's investigation, adding firefighters to the list of frustrated first responders. He said sometimes fire trucks are supposed to be sent to a scene, but never get the call.
Kent County and Grand Rapids switched to PremierOne in December 2012, in part to cut the number of call transfers and decrease response times.
Six months earlier and 600 miles away, Minnesota's Dakota County pulled the plug on PremierOne, citing "significant stability issues" that led to the "server continuously crashing" and a "complete lack of confidence" in the PremierOne product.
Members of the Dakota Communications Executive Committee noted that dropping PremierOne would be a "significant blow" to Motorola because "agencies across the country were watching the progress on (the) implementation of the PremierOne product."
Back here in West Michigan, authorities are sticking with PremierOne.
"I know from our point of view in looking at the system, the implementation has gone smoothly," Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt, chair of the Kent County Dispatch Authority, said.
He said he sees no problems with the system, despite so many trouble reports having been filed.
"I haven't seen the trouble reports you're talking about personally, but I know in talking with our dispatch supervisors and the people that are working with it every day we continue, it continues to work well and we continue to work on issues that we face all the time," Holt said.
Motorola's website urges potential customers to "just ask the city of Ventura, California about PremierOne because it's had amazing result."
When Target 8 called Ventura, their assessment of the system was less glowing.
"We've seen the slowness of the system. It's not every day it's intermittent," Field Services Division Commander Tim Turner said. "We've seen some crashes in the past. We don't have that issue so much anymore, but it was definitely an issue in the past."
It has been three and a half years since Ventura launched PremierOne. Turner wouldn't rate the problems the city is experiencing now on a scale of one to 10, but did weigh in on dispatch systems in general.
"Having experienced several different CAD systems, they all have glitches. They all have problems. I think part of the problem is CAD manufacturers are trying to put too much stuff in their system and it's just not working out well."
Saginaw County on the east side of Michigan also uses Premier One. That county has used it for a year, but hasn't signed off on it yet because they are also still working through issues.
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