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July 16, 2013

Bad dispatch info exposes FDNY firefighters to meningitis

NEW YORK — Four firefighters and a supervisor were exposed to bacterial meningitis last month after they were given wrong patient information by a 911 dispatcher.

NYDaily News reported that the NYPD dispatcher put incorrect information into the 911 system — saying the woman the firefighters were expecting to find was suffering from "serious burns."

The firefighters sought medical attention after some of them were exposed to the woman’s bodily fluids after giving CPR on June 13, according to the report.

None of the firefighters involved in the call contracted the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease, but the mistake still put the firefighters in unnecessary danger, the fire officers union said.

"These members went home to their families that night, which not only put them at risk, but others as well," said Jim McGowan, of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "[Firefighters] are always prepared to respond to any call, and depending on what is on the ticket, the officer will…take the proper precautions."

The fire union says it has collected about 200 such reports from officers and firefighters in the past six weeks as NYPD operators struggle to master the new 911 system.

"If we don’t have proper information, how do we know what we’re going into? The details on the tickets are critical to getting the best response possible and keeping firefighters, fire officers and the public safe," McGowan said.

The correct coding of calls using the new dispatch system has been addressed with NYPD as a training issue, according to the report.