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Calls for aid for NYC residents poured into Suffolk 911 staff during storm

During Wednesday night's storm, Darin Swicicki, a Suffolk

During Wednesday night's storm, Darin Swicicki, a Suffolk County Emergency Service dispatcher, ended up handling 911 calls from residents seeking help for family members in New York City who couldn't reach city 911 services. Credit: Suffolk AME

Suffolk residents placed numerous calls to the county's 911 call system Wednesday night as they sought help for relatives in New York City who could not reach 911 while a storm deluged the region, county officials said Thursday.

Callers reported relatives trapped in vehicles and flooded basement apartments, but could not get through to city first responders from about 10 p.m. Wednesday until early Thursday, said Tom Moran, vice president of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, which represents Suffolk 911 workers.

Moran said Suffolk emergency operators also fielded calls from Nassau County.

Suffolk answered nearly 5,000 911 calls between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. Thursday, compared with the usual weekday average of 3,300 to 3,600, the police department said.

Officials did not detail the number of calls that came from outside the county or from residents seeking help for others who live elsewhere.

Emergency Services Dispatcher Darin Swicicki said he realized "something was going on" around 9:30 p.m., when calls for New York City emergencies started coming in and "there was no answer" when he tried to contact the NYPD and FDNY.

Swicicki said the first call he tried to make to a city agency went to "dead air" without ringing or yielding a busy signal. A later call "just rang and rang and rang," he said.

"And then as we started taking more calls from the city area, it became more apparent that there was definitely something wrong," Swicicki said.

Nassau Police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said the Communications Bureau recorded no system outages during the storm and operated at full staff.

The bureau received and routed over 1,300 calls in five hours, compared with the normal average of 950 for the same time frame, he said.

LeBrun said 24 calls came from outside Nassau County.

The NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said the department does not route emergency calls to Suffolk and that all calls routed through the 911 system first come through an NYPD dispatcher.

"The city had very high call volume during the storm last night," Dwyer said. "There was no outage for the FDNY regarding 911 calls."

Swicicki, 40, of Mastic, said city calls came in through the Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services 911 section until midnight, and workers finished contacting city first responders around 12:30 a.m.

For some calls, the relay time to city agencies took about 45 minutes because of technical issues or time Suffolk workers spent verifying unfamiliar addresses, Swicicki said. The normal relay time is about two minutes.

Suffolk police said all their emergency dispatch operations functioned properly.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called it "extraordinarily rare" for Suffolk to respond to city and Nassau 911 calls.

Bellone said county officials were looking into how many such calls came into Suffolk emergency lines.

"I think it speaks to the devastation of this storm, how quickly it came in, and how it surprised people … " Bellone said at a news conference Thursday.

With Matthew Chayes, Robert Brodsky, Scott Eidler and Vera Chinese

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