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911 problem mostly technical- Police Commissioner, PSC official

Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud

Police Commissioner, Seelall Persaud and a senior official of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Thursday insisted that a major part of the problem with the 911 emergency number was technical rather than human.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) has already said that the police was responsible for less than satisfactory responses to 911 calls. Reasons, the phone company has identified, are the disappearance of handsets from the termination points of 911 lines at various Police Stations, the removal of the handset off the hook and no answer by personnel during standard working hours.

Persaud admitted that ranks in some instances refuse to take 911 calls because of the attitude o some callers.

At the same time, he said the experience has been that the phones do not ring or the calls are routed to stations in districts other than those which they are intended.

Executive member of the PSC, Gerry Gouveia also disagreed with the phone company’s position, saying that he personally observed the system malfunction about two years ago.

“I personally on behalf of the PSC investigated this issue. I went into the 911 room. There were 6 phones and six operators. I witness this first hand. The phones would ring when the operator picks up the handset, there is total silence on the phone. I then used my cell phone and called 911 while standing right there. It would be ringing in my ears but not on the desk, or it would ring on the desk and again total silence when the operator answers. This is an intermittent problem,” he said.

Gouveia suggested that instead of hiring foreign experts at least 10 of Guyana’s top Information Technology (IT) experts help GT&T and Digicel fix the problem. “Let them solve the technical problem. This is a life and death issue,” he added.

GT&T said that the 911 system was decentralised after 2006 to allow 911 calls from landlines to be routed to designated police stations in specified geographical areas rather than all being routed to Brickdam Police Station.

The phone company said it did not know the results of a 911 assessment by a government-hired consultant from the Cayman Islands-based Island Care Emergency.

 An “urgent investigation and review of al facts”, GT&T said, was needed to highlight all issues and deficiencies of the 911 system. GT&T stands ready to supply technical inputs to the improvement of said service with an objective of assisting the  Ministry in correcting and providing an efficient 911 police response since this would be in the national interest,” the company added.