San Francisco's Mayor Lee orders review of emergency communications 

Mayor Ed Lee has called for a review of San Francisco’s emergency communications technology following system failures last week and on New Year’s Eve.

Lee will be meeting this week with Department of Emergency Management Director Anne Kronenberg to find out why computer systems in fire and police vehicles were down for several hours on Thursday and Friday. A backup system managed to keep the “critical function” of communications from breaking down completely, he said, but the failure of the main server is still a major concern.

“I want to know exactly what happened and what we need to do to keep the system up and running,” Lee said.

The computer-aided dispatch system, commonly referred to as CAD, allows dispatchers at the Department of Emergency Management to send information directly to onboard computers on police and fire vehicles. Police rely on the system to conduct background checks on suspects through the California Law Enforcement Telecommunication System.

When the system is down, emergency personnel resort to pen and paper, using radios to communicate.

That is how emergency dispatchers worked on Thursday and Friday, and during a major fire on New Year’s Eve. The system was back up and running before a three-alarm fire ripped through a Mission district home on Friday afternoon, officials said.

“I’m glad it didn’t interfere with the fire,” Lee said. “We have enough smart people around so that we’re safe.”

The cause of the failure is not yet known, Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Adleman said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has been critical of The City’s technology infrastructure and has asked for a full report of the New Year’s Eve incident.

“With our proximity to 21st-­century Silicon Valley, it’s not acceptable that our city’s IT system is chugging along as if it’s 1999,” Chiu said.

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Brent Begin

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