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Alameda Fire Dispatch Phone Recordings Paint a Picture of Confusion, Equipment Failures

Telephone recordings from the Alameda County Fire dispatch center during the Raymond Zack incident paint a picture of confusion and equipment failures among first responders and responding agencies. Action Alameda News obtained a copy of the recordings from Alameda County on Tuesday, pursuant to a public records request. The City of Alameda posted a copy of the recordings to its website on Wednesday, the day after Action Alameda News received a copy. Prior to that, the City of Alameda had posted a copy of only radio transmission recordings, not telephone recordings.

The Alameda County Fire dispatch center operates out of City Hall in San Leandro, and handles the dispatch of equipment for the Alameda Fire Department. Both 9-1-1 telephone calls and radio transmissions are recorded.

The telephone recordings obtained by Action Alameda News reveal the conversations between call-takers in the dispatch center, and other agencies, such as Alameda Police, the United States Coast Guard, and the Oakland and Alameda Fire Departments.

The complete recording of the telephone calls provided by Alameda County are available here, on the Raymond Zack Project.

The County did not provide a time-of-day stamp for individual calls, so it’s difficult to tell when the calls took place. Action Alameda News has transcripted and summarized some highlights of the recordings below, noting the time-marker in the recording, which does not correlate to a time of day.

Also, readers should understand that actual events took place over the course of an hour – the recording compresses the time scale to about 16 minutes.

00:00 Opening call from Alameda Police Department to Alameda County Fire Dispatch (ACFD): “He’s going into the water trying to drown himself.”

(By the end of the recording, participants to the event are indicating that they thought the victim was a woman. Recordings of radio transmissions released by the City of Alameda reveal ACFD telling Alameda firefighters that the victim was a woman.)

00:50 Alameda PD tells ACFD (Christina) – “Can you let them know they want them in? They don’t want you guys to stage any more, they want you to go out there.” (This appears to coincide with the ACFD call log which records an entry at 11:37 “CLEAR TO GO IN. CLEAR TO ENTER.”)

1:28 United States Coast Guard (USCG) tells ACFD the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for a USCG boat is 30 to 40 minutes “depending.”

2:23 ACFD calls AFD Battalion Commander Rick Zombeck, and says “Well, PD, they’re like, spazzing out, so I don’t know how far out the person is. But Coast Guard has a 30 minute ETA so they were calling to see if the San Leandro boat was available…check with engine 1 and see if they need a boat, and let us know if you need San Leandro.”

(Previously, the Alameda County Fire Department has stated that rescue boats were available during the incident at its Station 11 in San Leandro.)

3:20 ACFD calls Alameda County Fire Station 11, San Leandro, and is told it would take about 30 minutes for a boat from that station to reach the scene in Alameda. ACFD responds, “Ok, that’s what Coast Guard said, we’ll let them handle it.”

4:04 AFD Rick Zombeck calls dispatch. “Are they [USCG] sending a RIB boat?” (RIB is an abbreviation for Rigid Inflatable Boat) ACFD call-taker says she doesn’t know, but they just launched it and that it would take 30 minutes to get there.

AFD’s Zombeck asks how long it would take for the San Leandro boat to arrive. “Call the Coast Guard and find out what kind of boat they’re going to send. It’s shallow water, so they’re going to have to send a RIB, which is what I assume they’re going to send.”

4:57 ACFD calls USCG to confirm they are sending a RIB boat.

6:12 ACFD calls USCG to get a cell phone number for a contact on the USCG boat. Subsequent to this, there are various calls about AFD trying to communicate with the USCG boat via cell phone or marine radio.

10:16 Oakland Fire Department calls ACFD saying they have USCG on the line requesting a shallow-bottom boat from Oakland FD.

(By this time, it appears that USCG has discovered that the boat they have dispatched drafts too deeply to approach the victim, Raymond Zack, and they are calling for a back-up shallow-water boat from another agency. An Alameda PD press release after the incident stated that the USCG vessel dispatched from San Francisco could not get close to Zack “due to the shallow nature of the bay.”)

12:25 It’s not clear, but it appears that at this time ACFD spoke with Oakland FD for a shallow-bottom boat. Subsequent discussions with Oakland FD take place.

15:37 USCG in San Francisco calls ACFD to indicate that a Good Samaritan has pulled Raymond Zack into the beach.

16:32 “Don in Medic 1,” apparently Alameda FD firefighter Donald Pemberton, assigned to Apparatus ID “M01,” based on the Alameda FD incident report, calls ACFD. ACFD asks, “Well, who was the second ambulance for?”

“Don in Medic 1” responds, saying, “…we had run through all our batteries on the autopulse….Yea, he’s done. Yea, so we called in to see if we could get the autopulse up and working…He uh, had the ability to make a bad decision and did.”

(An autopulse is apparently an automatic chess compressor used to respond to cardiac arrest. Note that while the telephone recordings suggest that a second ambulance was dispatched, this is not confirmed by the transcript of the radio transmissions released by the City of Alameda nor by the copy of the radio transmission recordings released by the City.)

5 comments to Alameda Fire Dispatch Phone Recordings Paint a Picture of Confusion, Equipment Failures

  • carol gottstein md

    The Autopulse is an automated CPR machine made by ZOLL. According to the manufacturer’s description online, it is NOT, repeat, NOT an AED=automated external defibrillator, as is found on the walls of the Mastick Senior Center & Alameda Main Library, which apparently civilians are expected to be able to use. If AFD did not use an AED or have one available, I believe the handling of the Crown Beach incident may have been below the minimum standard of care for treatment of a hypothermia victim. Cardiac arrest due to hypothermia might be resucitatable w/a defibrillator. Go to this link=

  • Liz Williams

    Thanks for weighing in, Carol. I’ve also been confused about how little time there was between the time Raymond Zack was put in the ambulance (12:31) and his time of death (12:58, according to the coroner). It’s my understanding that hypothermia patients must be warmed to normal temperature before they can be pronounced dead. It seems the standard of care here would have been CPR through rewarming; not an EMT deciding someone was “done,” after discovering that a crucial piece of equipment was unusable.

    I thought our firefighters were incompetent cowards before all this came to light. Now I think they may be monsters.

  • Bob

    and what amount of money do we pay those guys?

  • […] Action Alameda News: ALAMEDA FIRE DISPATCH PHONE RECORDING PAINT A PICTURE OF CONFUSION, EQUIPMENT FAILURES , by David Howard  << how do you spell DERELICTION OF DUTY?  Which is exactly what you […]

  • acreccsucks

    Listen closely to the tape – ACRECC dispatcher Traci is too confused to handle this call properly, and ACRECC dispatch supervisor Christina is too busy being flirty and arrogant to handle this call properly. When USCG called OFD directly to ask for shallow draft boat, OFD calls Christina at ACRECC to confirm and Christina cancels Oakland’s response. Error! The reason USCG called OFD directly is because USCG needed a resource that OFD had. Think about it.

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