Grievant was employed for eighteen years with the County of Onondaga's Department of Emergency Communications. On the morning of November 29, 2012 she was working as a fire dispatcher. After receiving a report from the 911 call taker about an individual reporting trouble breathing, grievant appropriately dispatched a rescue unit. Approximately 22 seconds later the caller reported that he smelled smoke. The call taker coded the report as a residential fire and the information was transmitted to grievant. Contrary to protocol, Grievant did not dispatch fire equipment but sent another dispatcher to check with the call taker. There were several more reports which, according to the County, should have resulted in grievant dispatching fire equipment, but grievant failed to do so until approximately five minutes after the initial call.
The County issued a written reprimand, alleging several violations of County work rules, including a failure to follow job instructions, failure to transmit pertinent information in a timely manner and failure to update events as needed.
Rejecting the grievance challenging the warning Arbitrator Gordon Mayo noted:
Firefighting is not an exact science, and each structure fire poses its own problems in fire suppression. Nonetheless, this five minute delay in proper dispatching may have contributed to the caller's demise, as he did not survive the fire.
The Arbitrator rejected grievant's claim of confusion, and her reliance on a claimed "five minute rule." Upholding the reprimand he concluded:
Mistakes happen in the workplace. Except in extraordinary circumstances, such errors do not result in death. An E-911 Center is different - there life and death outcomes depend upon the dedicated employees who staff these facilities. [Grievant] has been by all accounts a fine employee over her eighteen year career. Here, however, her failure to act in accordance with normal protocols may have contributed to a man's death. As a result, the penalty of a written reprimand is an appropriate punishment.
Arbitrator Mayo's award can be found here.