Sandy residents concerned about emergency response times after home burns

Posted at 9:31 PM, Jun 18, 2014

SANDY, Utah -- A Sandy home that burned Friday is now a total loss. In the aftermath of the blaze, some residents in the area are saying they are upset over the slow response time from emergency responders.

For the fire that destroyed the Sandy home on 9690 E. Quail Ridge Road, two different fire agencies and two different dispatch centers were involved, and confusion over the exact location of the fire and which dispatch center the calls to 911 were patched to may have played a role.

One neighbor, who wanted only to be identified as Katie, tells FOX 13 News: "If we have an emergency and we're not getting a response it's scary.... Through this fire we've met a lot of our neighbors and a lot of the surrounding residents, and this is not the first time we're finding out that response time is horrible."

According to the Valley Emergency Communications Center and Salt Lake City Dispatch, it was 14 minutes from the time the first calls came in to when the first Unified Fire crews arrived on scene. It took 12 minutes for Sandy firefighters. Some of that time was spent between the two dispatch centers - operating on different platforms - figuring out location and jurisdiction.

"It's ridiculous," Katie said. "I mean, when you call 911, it should be done quick."

Another concern from residents is why the closest firefighters were not the ones initially dispatched. Some of the responding crews came from as far as Midvale and the west side of Sandy. Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder spoke about the issue.

"The citizens of this county should be aware that the 911 system and how it is currently being managed is a problem and it doesn't need to be this way," he said.

Another Sandy resident identified as John said, "They need to get on one system for the whole valley or do something where they can pinpoint where you are better."

That's what Winder is pushing for, the entire valley to be on a single computer aided dispatch system. He believes it will solve these response time problems, streamline dispatch communication and efficiency, and save money.

"It's a question of political will, period," Winder said. "The money is there, the technology is there, the opportunity is there. It is simply a matter of getting decision makers to say: 'We're going to do it.'"

An analogy used to describe the two dispatch platforms to FOX 13 News is that one center is running on a PC while the other is on Apple, and the two platforms don't talk to each other very well. Right now there are Band Aids and patches in place to help with this problem, but some think more needs to be done.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has gotten approval from the County Council to allocate $1.3 million toward standardizing the technology platform. Click here for a PDF offering more about Mayor McAdam's plan: Mayor McAdams plan regarding 911 system discrepancies