The United States Postal Service (USPS) changed an outdated emergency policy in January following an NBC Bay Area investigation that exposed critical delays in a life and death situation at a mail processing facility in Oakland.
The policy, dating back to the 1970s, advised postal service employees not to call 911 first when they witnessed a medical emergency and instead instructed them to call the onsite postal police unit. The policy stated “Only the postal police are to initiate the 911 procedure.”
The USPS adopted a new 911 policy in the Oakland facility at the beginning of the year. The first line now states “In an emergency, anyone should immediately call 911.”
NBC Bay Area investigated the policy after a letter sorting machine operator, Sam Macasieb, died from head trauma he sustained at the facility last summer.
“It cost his life for the change to happen,” Larnie Macasieb said.
No one saw what happened, but coworkers discovered Macasieb lying on his back, semi-conscious, with blood coming from his mouth and ears.
According to an internal postal service investigation, employees first called their supervisors instead of calling 911. Those supervisors contacted additional management, who eventually called the postal police who then made the call to 911.
Employees said they found Macasieb sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Records show that 911 dispatchers did not receive a call until 3:53 a.m.—up to 53 minutes later.
It is unclear if Macasieb would have survived if USPS employees would have called 911 sooner, but he did not wake up from a coma. The family decided to take him off life support 10 days later.
For Larnie Macasieb, comfort comes from knowing that she fought for a change in the 911 policy and that it made a difference.
“This is one of the fights that I won,” she said. “Hopefully it will never happen to anyone again.”
The postal service declined interview requests to discuss the new policy but said the gravity of the concerns raised in a series of NBC Bay Area reports prompted the change.
“I was overjoyed,” said Andrew Carriaga, a mail processing clerk and shop steward with the Oakland Chapter of the American Postal Workers Union. “Now we have [a policy] that lets us help each other out.”
He believes the new policy will save lives but says postal service managers have been slow to inform the 2,000 employees who work at the Oakland facility.
“It’s been hit or miss,” Carriaga said. “I’ve asked people at work if they’ve gotten any information from supervisors. Some have. Most have not.”
Carriaga said putting a new policy in writing is not enough. He is calling on USPS managers to implement training to deal with real-life emergency scenarios that could happen on the work floor.
Postal service leaders in Washington D.C. have repeatedly declined requests to discuss the 911 policy at the national level. The policy instructs employees to call their medical departments or security teams first—so those individuals can call 911. The USPS says the policy is intended to limit confusion and let postal police direct paramedics to people in need of medical attention.