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Topic : 12/12 911 Nightmares!

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Created on : Friday, December 05, 2008, 12:52:11 pm
Author : DrPhilBoard1
Imagine that you’ve fallen, had a terrible accident or been abducted, and your only lifeline is 911. What happens if you call and can’t get the help you need or emergency personnel are sent to the wrong address? America's 911 system handles nearly 240 million calls per year, and the growing number of dispatch disasters can be a matter of life or death. Edward and Ada know about this pain firsthand. They lost their loved one, Olidia, to a murder-suicide in the parking lot of a police station after what they say was a botched 911 call. Edward says his mom’s death could have been prevented, and Ada believes the operator was rude to her sister in the final moments before her murder. Joining Dr. Phil to discuss the tragedy are Charlie Cullen from the National Emergency Number Association and Caroline Burau, a 911 dispatcher and author of Life in the Hot Seat. Find out the most important piece of information you need to know when calling for help. Then, Nathan’s wife, Denise Amber Lee, was abducted, and a series of 911 calls -- even one placed by Denise herself -- failed to save the young mom’s life. Jane, a witness to Denise’s abduction, was on the line with 911 for more than nine minutes … but police were never dispatched. Now Nathan says he's angry with the system and has trouble explaining Denise’s death to their two young sons. What can the grieving father do to move past the pain? And, learn what constitutes a genuine emergency, and what to teach your kids about dialing those three important numbers. Join the discussion.

Find out what happened on the show.

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December 12, 2008, 12:54 pm CST

Just my notes

As I watched this show and read the posted comments.  I got a little angry.  Why?  Because I am involved in emergency services from both ends.  Being a first responder as well as a dispatcher.  For most of the comments and thoughts that I have read that are negative are from people who have not done this type of work and have had a bad experience with 911. Understandable. I too have had not so pleasant experiences with 911 and with my co-workers, who I personally thought can and should do a better job.  Like most emergencies, emotions are running high for BOTH parties.  Just because my job is  being a 911 dispatcher, that does not mean that I do not get a little nervous when call comes in or when there is an officer involved in a foot chase or vehicle pursuit.  This by all means is not an easy job.  The misconception is that all we do is take forever to pick up the phone and when we do we have to bombard you with a plume of questions.  Well, if we did not ask a serious of question, or rather attempt to ask these questions, it could delay the response, improper response or worse...no response.  Yes, I too agree that there should be better training for most dispatch centers and equipment revisions.  But then again too, this is a high turn over position due to the high stress that comes along with this job.  If you could go to a center and sit thru a 12 hour shift that includes 5-6 straight phone calls were all you get is someone yelling and scream and not being cooperative and not giving you correct as possible information. Plus along with dealing with that you get a caller that is in distress and you need to ask the questions but you know this isnt really helping them situation, but is part of you job.  Oh, don't forget to dispatch the calls or send over to be dispatched or answer the police officer over the radio who is asking you to run a license or better yet he is involved in a foot pursuit with shots fired.

Again, don't get me wrong being a 911 dispatcher is a difficult job that has quite a few flaws the need to be fixed.  When centers are strapped for employees.  They are happy when people apply because of the desperate need for people that at times trainging may not be as adequate as necessary.  But I do agree with Dr Phil final statement.....it was a definite shout-out to the 911 operators.
 
December 12, 2008, 12:54 pm CST

I don't blame the dispatchers

Quote From: saritaswg

I have been a 911 call taker/dispatcher for over 7 years and it's definitely the hardest job you'll ever love. The dispatchers in my center work 10-12 hour shifts, 4-5 days/week (sometimes more.) Due to under staffing we all work mandatory overtime on a regular basis, in fact, I worked almost 700 hours of overtime this year to make sure my community has the emergency services they need. Every one of my co-workers is a dedicated professional and I am proud to be a part of this organization--even when the only recognition we get as professionals are shows like "911 Nightmares" and negative comments from the public.

 

It's very frustrating to read all these "horror" stories because I can see the ignorance of the public--not meant negatively, people simply don't have the information they need to use the system correctly. When I am training a new dispatcher one of the first things they need to know is: don't trust what your caller is telling you, ask more questions because people will leave out crucial details that can mean the difference between life and death.

 

Millions of people in the US believe that calling 911 from a cell phone can be tracked using GPS to pinpoint their location so it's not important to know where they are when they call, this can be true in most cases; however, it's not always the case. Pre-paid cell phones are the worst--there is no way for 911 centers to track the owner of the phone and obtain essential information in a timely manner (I'm not saying it can't be located at all, but when there is an emergency it's not fast enough to save lives.)

 

I love my job and I could never see myself doing something else, but when I hear stories, such as the ones that are to be featured on the show today, and read these messages the public has posted it makes me angry! I think it's time people take a little bit of responsibility for themselves and stop blaming everyone else around them when something goes wrong. Know your location! Keep your wits about you and help that dispatcher help you!

 

For instance, the person here who said their mother died because the dispatcher didn't send the fire station that was down the block from their house--how it is the dispatcher's fault that your parents lived near a fire station that doesn't service their area? You have my sympathy, but I don't think the blame lies on the dispatcher.

 

And the person who was a victim of a home invasion--how is it the dispatcher's fault the officer went to the wrong house? Did you request a copy of the radio tape and know the dispatcher told the officer to go to the wrong house? Or is it possible the officer made a mistake when attempting to locate your residence and made a wrong turn?

 

We are the heroes behind the scenes and rarely get the acknowledgment we deserve--only coming into the public eye when they need someone to blame.

 

It's a very thankless job and we rarely receive praise for anything we do; however, make one mistake in your career and everyone hears about it. Out of the millions of 911 calls that are placed each year I am curious what the percentage of error actually is? Obviously the public doesn't hear about the countless lives that are saved everyday by 911 professionals.

 

Keep yourselves safe and don't hesitate to call 911 if you need us, we do the best we can and always have your best interests at heart--even though we're human and errors are made.

You all work really hard and do an excellent job.  

I blame the government, that has underfunded the system all while stealing tax payer dollars to give it to there friends the corporate criminals.   If they paid 911 operators properly and treated them properly (not making them work 10-12 plus hour shifts etc) particularly in this economy they would have plenty of operators and even the best people can't be successful without proper training. 

So thank you for the excellent work you do.  Maybe one day the government will actually treat you well and pay you what you deserve.  
 
December 12, 2008, 12:58 pm CST

911calls

i'm a former 9-1-1 calltaker/dispatcher from las vegas. i would like to provide a voice for the 9-1-1 side. first of all...we are not free from making mistakes. it is a very very stressful job. you must realize that we are trained to get specific information. for example, the location first. far too many times the caller just wants to tell their story and it makes it difficult for the calltaker to get the information and get units rolling. we also have to determine if the call is an emergency. while we are listening to the caller and trying to get the information we are also searching for other calls that may currently be active or, depending on what's happening on the phone, we may already have units rolling.

 

what i had a problem with as i watched the show was that only pieces of the calls were played. and if that is incorrect then there was major information left out describing the situation. i know that for confidentiality reasons you can't always play the entire call, however, make a point to explain everything that the audience and viewers did not hear/see instead of portraying incompetence of dispatchers.

 

i simply ask that before people jump to conclusions about 9-1-1 operators/dispatchers that they try to see if from the other side. get all of the facts, sit along with your local agency, whatever it takes. i miss being a dispatcher in las vegas, but at the same time, i don't miss the stress of the job.

 

thanks. and good job to all of the 9-1-1 calltaker/operator/dispatchers out there!

 
December 12, 2008, 1:09 pm CST

911 LACK OF COMPASSION

There was an auto accident on the Garden State Parkway in NJ.  After calling 911, I also made a call to the local police station.  The accident occured near the Brick Town exit.  The Brick Police station is at the exit.  The accident was almost visible from the station.  The 911 operator refused to send any help.  She stated repeatedly that the Parkway is not their jurisdiction.  It was so frustrating.  In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 911 all our local police and firefighters send crews to NY even though it was "not in our jurisdiction".  There were people in the cars who were injured and in need of help and the police station just a few hundred yards away would not lend any help at all.

Tragic.

 
December 12, 2008, 1:10 pm CST

Its the governments fault for improperly diverting tax payer dollars.

Quote From: mattyd94

it is not the fault of the polise station for not having adiquite traning or technology. to do all of that stuff the police stations need money. they get it from the tax payers. if they nedd more money for a new dispach system then they need to ask for it and put it up to a vote in the community. a lot of the times the reguests are denied. so it is the voters fault for not having a adiquite police dispach system. ITS YOUR OWN!
The goverment doesn't need to tax us more.  Rather what they need to do stop giving money to the corporate criminals and start giving it for services that help us the people.  
 
December 12, 2008, 1:33 pm CST

12/12 911 Nightmares!

As a police dispatcher/emergency call-taker, I was very interested in seeing this show. I am in no way trying to justify the mistakes made by dispatchers, but you have to understand that we are understaffed, under paid, and embarassingly under-trained. My agency or state has no real training system implemented and just recently started training new hires in a classroom setting. When I was hired, I was given one day of training in a classroom setting and then placed with a senior dispatcher for field training, essentially being thrown to the wolves. Most of us are passionate about what we do and do it as well as we possibly can with the limited resources that we have. You would probably be appalled to find out just how poorly we are paid. My agency starts new hires at $32,000 a year which is actually considered pretty good for this job and we are in a major metropolitan area with a high cost of living. We need better equipment, better training, and better pay. Maybe then the profession would attract more quality people who will do the job well. It's a thankless job and we are basically the red-headed stepchildren in law enforcement, but most of us are good people who want to do their job well. We just need more resources.

 
December 12, 2008, 1:41 pm CST

This is distrubing!

How come it is always the bad things that hit the news? I am a 911 dispatcher and I have made some mistakes thankfully no one has been hurt but we all make mistakes! I have been trained but what people dont get it is not every call is the same. Everyday is a new experience. The people that do this job is because they want to help not because they want to hurt people. Not enough credit is giving to us, like delivery babies, saving lives with CPR and so on. I have even talked people out of pulling the trigger. But do you see any of this on tv NO. Everyone is so caught up in the bad they dont see the good. What if we didn't have a 911 system like other places? Yes, not every call that goes into 911 has the best out come but we do our best and Im sorry if our best isnt good enough for you!
 
December 12, 2008, 1:45 pm CST

12/12 911 Nightmares!

Quote From: trigreen

The goverment doesn't need to tax us more.  Rather what they need to do stop giving money to the corporate criminals and start giving it for services that help us the people.  
I think, if the "Big Three" in Michigan want help from the government, they ought to change their practices. Such as flying to Washington in corporate jets begging for money. Sheeesh! Why can't they just file Chapter 11 like other companies have done?
 
December 12, 2008, 1:45 pm CST

Absolutely!

Quote From: saritaswg

I have been a 911 call taker/dispatcher for over 7 years and it's definitely the hardest job you'll ever love. The dispatchers in my center work 10-12 hour shifts, 4-5 days/week (sometimes more.) Due to under staffing we all work mandatory overtime on a regular basis, in fact, I worked almost 700 hours of overtime this year to make sure my community has the emergency services they need. Every one of my co-workers is a dedicated professional and I am proud to be a part of this organization--even when the only recognition we get as professionals are shows like "911 Nightmares" and negative comments from the public.

 

It's very frustrating to read all these "horror" stories because I can see the ignorance of the public--not meant negatively, people simply don't have the information they need to use the system correctly. When I am training a new dispatcher one of the first things they need to know is: don't trust what your caller is telling you, ask more questions because people will leave out crucial details that can mean the difference between life and death.

 

Millions of people in the US believe that calling 911 from a cell phone can be tracked using GPS to pinpoint their location so it's not important to know where they are when they call, this can be true in most cases; however, it's not always the case. Pre-paid cell phones are the worst--there is no way for 911 centers to track the owner of the phone and obtain essential information in a timely manner (I'm not saying it can't be located at all, but when there is an emergency it's not fast enough to save lives.)

 

I love my job and I could never see myself doing something else, but when I hear stories, such as the ones that are to be featured on the show today, and read these messages the public has posted it makes me angry! I think it's time people take a little bit of responsibility for themselves and stop blaming everyone else around them when something goes wrong. Know your location! Keep your wits about you and help that dispatcher help you!

 

For instance, the person here who said their mother died because the dispatcher didn't send the fire station that was down the block from their house--how it is the dispatcher's fault that your parents lived near a fire station that doesn't service their area? You have my sympathy, but I don't think the blame lies on the dispatcher.

 

And the person who was a victim of a home invasion--how is it the dispatcher's fault the officer went to the wrong house? Did you request a copy of the radio tape and know the dispatcher told the officer to go to the wrong house? Or is it possible the officer made a mistake when attempting to locate your residence and made a wrong turn?

 

We are the heroes behind the scenes and rarely get the acknowledgment we deserve--only coming into the public eye when they need someone to blame.

 

It's a very thankless job and we rarely receive praise for anything we do; however, make one mistake in your career and everyone hears about it. Out of the millions of 911 calls that are placed each year I am curious what the percentage of error actually is? Obviously the public doesn't hear about the countless lives that are saved everyday by 911 professionals.

 

Keep yourselves safe and don't hesitate to call 911 if you need us, we do the best we can and always have your best interests at heart--even though we're human and errors are made.

I absolutely agree with you.  Please people, understand that these occurances that have been aired today are few and far between.  Yes, there are glitches in every system and, because of these occurances, hopefully things will change BUT people do need to take responsibility and learn what is important for you to tell 911 when you call them.  When my children were in school, a police officer came every year and talked to them about what they needed to do if there was an emergency at their house, or out of the house. I had (and still have) a paper taped next to each phone in our house that has written our address, cross streets, phone number, etc...so that IF we needed to call 911 (knowing the person calling would be frazzled), we would be able to read the information to the dispatcher.

    Now, with the 1st scenario on Dr. Phil's show, I don't know what more the woman could have said to the operator...she told her where she was going and that she needed help.  I don't think I would have been in a calm, civil mind either if someone were shooting at me.  Was the 911 operator at fault?  Absolutely not.  She was trying to get information that would help locate the woman...  she couldn't just dispatch police cars if she wasn't sure of the address.

 

     I'm sorry that these people suffered such a horrendous loss of loved ones.  I wish there were a better way to dispatch help in a timely fashion.  Through these tragedies, we may be able to come up with better ways to identify and dispatch help sooner.  I hope so.

 

mfk

 
December 12, 2008, 1:49 pm CST

12/12 911 Nightmares!

Since 911 dispatchers tape all their calls, they ought to submit all of "Nomar's" calls for voice print analysis. Maybe he could eventually get caught that way.
 
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