Lifeguards say dispatch procedures need to change - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lifeguards say dispatch procedures need to change

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) — A two-year-old was pulled from the water, after nearly drowning during a fun weekend outing. 

Now, the Lifeguard Union is saying changes need to be made to dispatch procedures to get help faster. 

The toddler's condition is improving, but the child almost drowned in a pond near Mission Bay. 

The Lifeguard Union members said a delay in response was caused because the fire department was dispatched first, before lifeguards. 

At a news conference Tuesday, Lifeguard Union Chief Ed Harris said changes made in December are causing confusion and delaying lifeguards from responding and helping people in the water. 

For 35 years, all water calls were routed straight to lifeguards who would respond and then decide if fire should also be dispatched. The recent changes leave the 911 dispatcher responsible to classify the emergency as medical, water or for police and then routing it to the proper agency. 

The union cited the weekend emergency and incident in January when fire was dispatched instead of lifeguards and it took multiple calls for dispatchers to route those calls to the lifeguards.

Lifeguard union members said they want to go back to the old procedure immediately. 

San Diego Fire Rescue disagreed with the union saying response times have actually improved since the dispatch change. Fire Chief Brian Fennessy issued a statement on the matter that read: 

In the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, we are in the business of saving lives and keeping our neighborhoods safe. That was never more evident than during the recent storms when lifeguards and firefighters worked together for the common good and saved lives. It's unfortunate that local 911 leadership would suggest public safety has been compromised in some way to score political points. Nothing could be further from the truth as emergency response times have actually improved since the dispatch change. Using scare tactics like that as a public safety professional is irresponsible and dangerous. We are going to continue to respond as one department and not let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for the public we are sworn to serve.

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