SAN JUAN – The Union of Communications Workers of Puerto Rico, an organization that represents the workers of the 9-1-1 Emergency System Bureau, regretted this Thursday the unprecedented situation faced by 9-1-1 due to the closure of the Call Reception Centers but held the Department of Public Safety, the commissioner of 9-1-1 Yazmín González, responsible for the negligence in preparing an adequate plan to attend this pandemic.
He also held Governor Wanda Vázquez and the Fiscal Control Board responsible for blocking Law 32-2020 that seeks to protect 9-1-1 funds and the emergency system.
“9-1-1 receives about 10,000 calls a day. The personnel to attend them is certified and trained for the same. Since March 2020 our organization presented a comprehensive plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the 9-1-1 administration. It included the garrisoning of employees in the 9-1-1 facilities with 12-hour shifts and routine COVID-19 tests for the respective relief; We also suggest creating a plan for remote cell phones and sharing alternate phones with the public. Commissioner González took these suggestions and completely ignored them. She is the first person responsible for the disaster in the 9-1-1 ”, said Aramis Cruz Domínguez, president of the Union in written communication.
The Union also insisted that this unprecedented crisis occurs in the final weeks of the hurricane season, it also occurs when in Puerto Rico there is an unprecedented wave of violence, especially against Puerto Rican women. Cruz Domínguez also reported that “many are unaware that 9-1-1 is the line that activates an entire security scaffolding and in many cases includes agencies that are not part of the public security component such as the Office of the Ombudsman for Women . Telecommunicators are also trained to handle crises and channel emergencies. The other security components are not, which puts emergency care in the country at risk. “
On the other hand, the Union recalled that they have been in peaceful demonstrations for weeks against the 9-1-1 administration, as Governor Wanda Vázquez asked the Fiscal Control Board to block Law 32-2020, which among other things sought to return Call 9-1-1 with the tools you need and protect 9-1-1 funds as they cannot be used to pay off debt or be transferred to the general fund as has happened in past years. This law was presented jointly by Senators Henry Neumann and José Vargas Vidot and was approved unanimously in both legislative bodies.
“It is time for this mismanagement of the Emergency System to end. Our organization is already making the necessary referrals to the Federal Communications Commission on this matter, but we demand that both Act 32-2020 and the comprehensive plan we design be given way. We also require that 9-1-1 administrative staff be allowed to return to their regular duties as many are essential for the agency to function. Finally, we must remove 9-1-1 from the Department of Public Safety as was done with the Bureau of Forensic Sciences ”, stated Cruz Domínguez.
9-1-1 has been vital for emergency management in Puerto Rico and since 2014 illegal deviations of 9-1-1 funds and for having a totally obsolete system have been pointed out.