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Spending cut disconnects civilian staff for Lynn 911

by Laurel J. Sweet
Saturday, March 29, 2003

Hoping to stave off police and firefighter layoffs as long as possible, Lynn Mayor Edward ``Chip'' Clancy yesterday shut down the city's independent 911 nerve center and let go 12 civilian emergency call-takers.

``They're good people,'' Clancy conceded, ``but most communities don't have civilian call-takers to begin with. Am I happy? Absolutely not. Any time you put someone out of work it's a bad day.''

An unplanned-for loss of $2.45 million in state aid in the final quarter of fiscal year 2003 forced him to reach for the cost-cutting ax, Clancy said.

Lynn police are now answering 911 calls - an estimated 100 per day - and passing them along to two fire-alarm dispatchers. Lynn Fire Lt. George Hilton, the civilian call-takers' former supervisor, predicts the dispatchers won't be able to handle the demand.

``I'm not comfortable with this situation at all,'' Hilton said. ``The calls are going to back up.''

Hilton said most of the call-takers, 10 women and two men whose average annual pay is $40,000, have been on the job since civilians took over 911 in Lynn in 1995. The group threw themselves a farewell luncheon yesterday at their now-defunct headquarters at Wayne Alarm on Baldwin Street.

The call-takers sought to block their layoffs by pursuing a court injunction, but were denied.

Over the years, Hilton said, the call-takers have saved lives, delivered babies and even taken sandwich orders for infirmed, housebound residents.

``They're like your mother,'' Hilton said, ``and the sad thing is, the only person who knows they're here is the one who calls them in the middle of the night because they need help.''
 

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Ex-police chief's 911 call exposes Lynn layoff flap

by Marie Szaniszlo
Monday, March 31, 2003

Days after Lynn Mayor Edward ``Chip'' Clancy shut down the city's 911 nerve center and laid off its 12 operators due to state aid cuts, the city's former police chief called 911, only to be transferred to a swamped fire dispatcher as he suffered a heart attack.

Joseph Scanlon was in the intensive care unit yesterday at Massachusetts General Hospital. Neither his family nor the mayor could immediately be reached for comment last night.

But a Lynn lawyer and former critical-care nurse who has become the de-facto spokeswoman for the laid-off operators said the handling of Scanlon's call Saturday illustrates the dangers they tried to warn city officials about.

``I can't say added seconds almost cost his life,'' Janet Byrne said of Scanlon, who headed the police department for roughly three decades. ``I just know that sooner or later, it will cost somebody's. And the liability that's going to open the city up to will cost a lot more than it thinks it's saving right now.''

Last week, Clancy said he regretted the layoffs but an unexpected loss of $2.45 million in state aid necessitated the cuts.

Now, officers answer 911 calls - an estimated 100 per day - at police headquarters and pass them to two fire-alarm dispatchers, who used to work feet away from a minimum of two civilian operators each shift in the emergency call center Clancy has shut down.

``Now, I got someone with a call in one hand, a microphone in another and another call coming in. And one of the people they have on the phone might be committing suicide,'' said Fire Lt. George Hilton, the civilian operators' former supervisor. ``You can't put someone on hold and call for help at the same time.''

Under the city's new protocol, police are supposed to remain on the line with certain types of callers - someone choking, giving birth or having a heart attack, for example - while they notify a fire dispatcher, Byrne said.

In Scanlon's case, police transferred the call, forcing him to give his address again, while the two fire dispatchers on duty juggled calls, including a report of someone having trouble breathing, Hilton said.

The handling of Scanlon's call is expected to prompt the civilian call-takers' union to request that a Superior Court reconsider the mayor's decision last week to deny them a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the layoffs.
 

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Days after Lynn Mayor Edward ``Chip'' Clancy shut down the city's 911 nerve center and laid off its 12 operators due to state aid cuts, the city's former police chief called 911, only to be transferred to a swamped fire dispatcher as he suffered a heart attack.
From sources I have it is my understanding that it was the former fire chief.
Since Lynn has fired all its 9-1-1 call takers there is no one providing EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatching)to any of the towns people.

I have also been told that the layoffs were not because of state cut backs, but was due to the fact that Lynn PD had hired 9 new PO's (Do not know when they were hired) and needed money to pay for them since federal money is going away.
 

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the nine they hired are due to a grant they received for 9 officers to be in their schools, which is much needed
 
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