South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Tech focus of city-wide safety meeting


Technology was the focus of the Oct. 19 city-wide public safety council meeting, held at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers building in South Side.

After welcomes from the presidents of the Zones 1, 3, and 6 public safety councils, opening remarks were delivered by Wendell Hissrich, the director of the Dept. of Public Safety.

He said he began his public safety career as a city paramedic from 1985 to 1990, followed by 25 years with the FBI.

Among recent accomplishments he cited was putting Narcan in the hands of police officers, with greater accessibility to come.

“We’re getting there. Over 70 to 80 percent of the police vehicles have it,” he said.

Narcan is a prescription medication that immediately reverses the effects of a potentially fatal opioid overdose, thereby saving lives.

Narcan blocks opiate receptors, thereby preventing and reversing the harmful effects of the drugs, and restores breathing.

He also said for the first time in years, the city will soon have more than 900 officers on its police force.

The city recently moved its police academy to Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in the North Side from the longtime Washington Blvd. site.

Among the coming additions for 2017 is a fire boat next spring for fighting fires on and around the river; and the reinstatement of the emergency medical technician (EMT) program, which will result in more ambulances on the road.

Soon, the public will be able to acknowledge public safety members on the city’s public safety websites for outstanding work in specific incidents. The information will be considered by department personnel when officially recognizing members for their service.

Next, Wendy Urbanic, the 311 manager, spoke about MyBurgh and more.

She said 311, the city’s phone number for government information and non-emergency services, received 60,609 calls in 2013, and 94,712 calls in 2015. The average time today to answer a call is 16 seconds.

As the system continues to grow, she said she is excited about MyBurgh, the city’s 24/7 resource to notify the 311 call center of non-emergency issues, like graffiti, potholes, overgrown grass, and more.

She said there is easy access to connect with 311 via a phone or mobile app. Residents can submit a report with an optional photo or GPS location, and receive status updates.

MyBurgh can also be used to receive refuse collection reminders, and more.

Another way to process requests is tweeting on Twitter to @Pgh311, which has over 7800 followers. Text messages may be sent to 412-328-2771.

Requests may also be completed on-line at

Julianne Reiland, of the Dept. of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI), discussed Buildingeye, a new website for obtaining current information on all approved and pending building permits, code violations, and building licenses, and on all pending and approved zoning applications. The website is:

With Buildingeye, users can use the search bar at the top to look for data by ward, neighborhood, council district, address, or zip code. Then click on specific data points to learn details about the permit/license/violation.

Users may also sign up for alerts to find out about new applications.

For Buildingeye questions, email:

To a question of why occupancy permit information is not included, she said the current software does not permit it. But it will eventually become available.

Robert Cavalier, of the 90-member 17th St. Block Watch in South Side, spoke about block watches, saying “A robust block watch builds a community.”

Members use the Nextdoor social network to share news of break-ins and other neighborhood crime and problems. Members also use the online 311 system.

Mr. Cavalier said when block watch members encounter a problem, say with college students living in the neighborhood, they are told to talk to the students first. If after a few conversations nothing changes, they are urged to contact Zone 3 police Officer Christine Luffey who will go to the students’ residence and speak with them.

If the students attend Duquesne University, Tim Lewis, the school’s director of commuter affairs, is contacted.

To encourage interaction among neighbors, including students, the block watch holds socials and block parties.

“A strong civic health can support the economic health of a community,” he said.

Dr. Leonard Weiss, command physician, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, spoke about the PulsePoint application (app), which provides individuals with the ability to lend life-saving assistance to victims of cardiac arrest before first responders arrive.

“The goal is to help save lives in the community,” he said.

The app uses the location of a user trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to alert the person if someone in their immediate vicinity is in need of CPR.

The app, which has been integrated into the county 911 dispatch center, also directs the person to the exact location of the closest public access Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Dr. Weiss said the goal is to get bystanders involved while waiting for help: either doing CPR or finding an AED.

He asked that anyone who comes across an AED send that information to EMS through the app. The hope is a registry will be developed of AED sites in the county as, currently, there is no record of where they are or it they are being maintained.

He also reported that an ordinance is being pushed in the city for mandatory AED registration.

In related news, Mark Pinchalk, EMS’ Patient Care Coordinator, began a Citizen CPR Training program this year. The goal is train residents who can initiate care in medical emergencies prior to EMS arrival.

The program is being done by EMS in conjunction with UPMC.

Currently, less than 40 percent of residential/public cardiac arrest patients receive bystander CPR. Without bystander CPR, survival to discharge rates decrease dramatically.

Free, 30-minute courses will be provided on CPR and AED use, but within the city limits only. To schedule a program for a community group or organization, contact Mr. Pinchalk at 412-622-6930, or email:

David Madden, the supervisor of Animal Care and Control, discussed micro-chipping pets so they can be quickly identified through the use of scanners if they become lost.

“Scanners are universal and can read any chips, even European chips,” he said.

If an Animal Control officer picks up a lost pet with a chip, the officer calls the 24-hour chip company hotline, who tells the officer where the animal belongs.

Mr. Madden said there is less than a 30 percent chance of getting a lost dog returned if there is no ID or chip.

Chips hurt a little, he said, but the application is quick, and they last a lifetime.

In other news, the annual “Get Stuffed With Love” program that ensures no city residents go without a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving will be held on the holiday.

There are no income or age requirements, and everyone in need in the city of Pittsburgh is eligible to receive a free, warm meal on Thanksgiving Day delivered to their residence.

Residents requesting the free meals should contact the community resource officer in the zone in which they reside. In Zone 3, call Officer Christine Luffey at 412-488-8425 and leave your name, phone number, and number of dinners.

Contact 412-310-1308 if you would like to donate, or volunteer for meal preparations and more.

The next Zone 3 meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the zone station.


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