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Four Medford Fire Department employees punished for not responding to 911 call

Posted by Marcia Dick  August 17, 2012 06:27 PM

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A Medford fire alarm operator has been suspended for two weeks without pay, and three firefighters have received written reprimands, after the Fire Department did not respond to a 911 call for a medical emergency on July 13 that resulted in a fatality, the city announced late Friday afternoon.

An inquiry launched by Mayor Michael J. McGlynn and Fire Chief Frank A. Giliberti Jr. determined that the fire alarm operator, who was not identified, failed to send the proper alert, which would have triggered a loud alarm and lights to go off in a neighborhood fire station. He also recorded in a log that the Fire Department was on the scene, when it was not, the statement from the city said.

The fire alarm operator did use the radio system to announce the call, but the three firefighters' radios were turned down too low, and they did not hear the transmission, the city stated.

A source with knowledge of the incident stated that the 911 call was received just after midnight. The firefighters, who work 24-hour shifts, were asleep at the time and did not hear their radios, said the source, who did not want to be identified.

Giliberti disciplined he four employees for "unacceptable performance and judgment," under the state's civil service law, according to the statement. The fire union contract requires firefighters to have portable radios "to serve as a fail-safe in the event other forms of communication are off line," the statement said.

Neither Giliberti nor McGlynn could be reached for comment on Friday.

In the statement, McGlynn called public safety a "top priority" in the city of 56,000 residents. "Something obviously went wrong," McGlynn said. "It is my goal to insure (sic) that the facts determined through this review and the corrective action taken will make sure that this never happens again."

Medford Police, and Armstrong Ambulance, the city's private ambulance operator, did respond to the July 13 911 call, the city stated. The city did not identify the victim of the fire.
 
Bill O'Brien, president of Medford Firefighter Local 1032, said the union plans to file a grievance over the disciplinary action. "We will exercise our rights under the collective bargaining agreement," he said in a brief interview Friday afternoon.

O'Brien declined to comment on the city's statement, saying he had not yet received it.
 
As a result of the incident, Giliberti plans several reforms, according to the statement. They include instituting a "station watch" on every shift, meaning one person would be awake. Dispatching equipment will be tested twice per day, and computers will be modified to track where fire apparatus is sent, the release stated.
                  
Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@GlobeKMcCabe.


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