Fire dispatch system compromises public safety, lifeguard union says

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SAN DIEGO – A recent recording of an emergency call to rescue a child from a pond was proof the new dispatch system is compromising public safety, according to the lifeguard union.

Critics of the new San Diego Fire-Rescue Department dispatch system said the recording of a call from Sunday night's Mission Bay Park rescue is alarming. The fire department rescuer is heard reminding the dispatcher to contact lifeguards, lifeguard union representative Ed Harris said.

Harris asserted that a new dispatch system set up December 15 is slowing down lifeguard rescues. Instead of the water rescue calls being directly sent to lifeguards, dispatchers have to take an extra step to let them know – causing a delayed response.

“With this new dispatch change, that was not put through any of the lifeguard supervisors group… and is causing calls that should be coming to lifeguard on the coast are going to fire [department],” Harris said. "For 35 years, those calls have gone straight to lifeguards for water rescues. Lifeguards would then simply go."

SDFRD dispatchers received an emergency call of the 2-year-old boy who was pulled from the water at pond known as Model Boat Pond on Sunday.

“Possibly a juvenile in the water drowning,” the dispatcher said.

“I missed the first part, are lifeguards in route?” a firefighter responded.

“It’s at Paradise Point. CPR is in progress. We are getting a medic started. I’ll check on lifeguards…” the dispatcher said.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials released a statement when asked about the dispatcher system changes.

“It’s unfortunate that local 911 leadership would suggest public safety has been compromised in some way to score political points. Nothing could be further from the truth."

SDFRD leaders plan to address the concerns Wednesday during a morning news conference.