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Topic : 12/12 911 Nightmares!

Number of Replies: 130
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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, 2:04 pm CST


The guy who constantly making 911 calls nomar-roman could be Roman
December 12, 2008, 2:08 pm CST

Lack of Funding

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but when I hear the president of a company or organization or a CEO say we need to update the technology but we lack funding . . . . I'm inclined to suggest that someone needs to look at his or her salary!!!!!  I believe the tax dollars are out there just not being directed to the right place.
December 12, 2008, 2:18 pm CST

Don't ever assume anyone knows where you are

Quote From: jerseyman

My problem with all the bad reports about 911 could be stopped by sending some one as soon as you get the address, because most often time is of the essence.  Charging 100 bucks if it is a false alarm would certainly put a stop to it.  I know they can tell who is calling, because my incoming phone calls show up on my TV. So 911 should have the same ability to know who called, or at least whose phone called. The operator should be a well trained communicator. There may be the rub. Very little training because we are probably paying very little for the operator. It is easy to complain, but we should train ourselves in how we should give emergency reports.  I will bet all my former speech students can pass that test.  I really feel we should not complain if we don't have a solution in mind. Thanks for letting me vent.

I would like to clear up your generalization that just because a name and phone number pop up on your tv screen at home means dispatchers should know where everyone is.


If you call 911 from a land line, a dispatcher will know exactly what address you are calling from. I have been a dispatcher for 9 years and have yet to find a mistake with land line call information. Also a call from a land line always goes to the correct dispatch center.  And as another dispatcher mentioned before, most times the information is very detailed with what floor and apt or suite # the caller is at.


If you call from a VoIP service (like Vonage) the only inofrmation a dispatcher gets is the address you registered with the service. If you have moved and not changed your registered address, help is going to your old address unless you can tell us exactly where you are at now.


If you have to use a cell phone to call 911, we do not know exactly where you are at just by your phone signal. No magical address just pops up on our computer screen when 911 is called from a cell phone. Initially, all we get is the address for the antena your call came from, which is likely in the middle of a corn field or on top of a sky scraper some where within a couple miles of the city you are in. Without any directions from you, the best technology can do is narrow down your call to around a couple of block radius. Your name is not attached to your cell phone number, so we do not get that information ever.


Depending on the type of area or building you are in, your cell signal may be very weak making it near impossible to hear and understand eachother between the static and sound cutting out. Also know that on some cell phones there is an option to turn off the GPS feature. It is not wise to do this or easy to accidently do, but it can be done.


Some older phones do not even have GPS on them. Lots of older phones are out there. When old cell phones are donated they go out to crisis services to give to women and families solely for the purpose of calling 911. These cell phones cause an even bigger problem because a dispatcher cannot call these "911 Only" phones back if the signal is lost. They accept no incoming calls.


We know all accidents do not conveniently happen near a land line, but if one is available and close to you, always try to use it. If you must call from a cell phone we need to know the most detailed information possible about your location. If you are unfamiliar with the town you are in, try to find an address on a business or house closest to where you are at. If that is not possible, tell us the name of a business, park, landmark etc that you are near and we can start narrowing down where you may be. Just never assume a dispatcher knows where you are at. Where we send help is only as good as the information we can get from you.

December 12, 2008, 2:22 pm CST

View from 911 dispatcher


   I have been a 911 dispatcher for 15 years.  Hearing these stories makes my heart go out to the victims, their families, and the operators. Each state sets it's own standards of training. The states that poorly train their operators, who can't properly react in emergency situations, causes people to think all 911 operators are incapable of  helping. therefore, it is not easy for the public to have confidence to answer the questions, stay on the line, and know we are treating you the same as if we were getting help to our own family.   Kentucky mandates a dispatcher academy and  annual training thereafter. It takes a special type person to do this job.  we work in unstructured environments and have to know when/what to ask.  It's very important to stay on the line, and if you can't talk, lay the phone down, but don't hang up.  We can still hear what is going on, a lot of times, and keep the responders updated, as situations can change/escalate.  We ask for location first, soon as that is obtained, help is sent.  We still want you to stay on the phone, answering various questions, that you may think are stupid, but could make a difference in the outcome of your situation.  Remember you are our eyes and ears until help arrives. 





December 12, 2008, 2:27 pm CST

12/12 911 Nightmares!

I remembered this incident when I heard about Denise's situation. 


One day heading home on a two lane highway I saw the car in front of me swerve several times into the oncoming lane.  I called 911.  It was post Katrina and our sheriff's office was severly short handed, (I knew how bad the situation was because Hubby is a deputy), so I knew that it would be a while before they were going to be able to help.  I stayed on the cell, gave the licence plate number, the names of the cross streets, described every swerve and three different missed head on collisions, and stuck with that *&%@ who was going to eventually kill someone.  When the deputies finally got to us, the women were so wasted that one fell out of the car when the door was finally opened.  They had to call an ambulance for those two so and so's because they were so loaded on pills.


When I got off the phone with 911, Hubby immediately called me and told me how impressed they all were with the information I had given.  Apparently they were at the check point listening to me on the radio.  The difference was that I knew what the proceedures were, what information was needed, and what problems the department was facing at that time. 


I hope and pray that the woman who called 911 and reported seeing Denise crying and pleading for help in the back window doesn't blame herself in any way.  911 operators should be held to a higher standard and there should be a national standard.

December 12, 2008, 2:29 pm CST

12/12 911 Nightmares!

Quote From: uncommonsense0

The whole 911 CONCEPT was well meaning but it does NOT work.

It is FAR to easily overloaded in regional emergencies due to being swamped by cell calls and not having

enough phone lines to handle the traffic.

Calling a LOCAL fire or police department is by far the BEST choice but in many areas these dispatchers that KNEW your name and KNEW where you live and your circumstances are being ELIMINATED nation wide!

I NEVER advise anyone I CARE about to call 911!

I tell them to get the number of your LOCAL dispatcher or fir station .

Get the number of your local ambulance service and keep IT handy!

My own NEIGHBOR died as a DIRECT result of 911 sending help to the WRONG address!!!!!

This would NEVER have happened if the LOCAL dispatcher was called because she knew EVERYBODY in town and KNEW where they lived!!!

911 is an all your eggs in one basket approach that gets people killed!!

And most 911 centers are using computer based equipment that can EASILY crash taking out the ENTIRE 911 center and they don't have anywhere NEAR enough phone circuits to handle a REAL emergency!!!


I can't speak for other areas but where I live when you call 911, local police, or fire, it all rings to the same place.  If you call 911 I answer the phone or if you call the adm line I answer the phone and I still ask the same questions to get proper responders to you.
December 12, 2008, 2:38 pm CST

be prepared

alot of things u can do to stop an attacker,mace for one,have some handy,carry it with you.this is a crazy world anymore,you cant rely on 911 to be there instantly and if you up to it,get ya a gun,i dont approve of guns but when it comes down to me or him,i guess i'll do what i have to,hope it never for our systems being outdated,our goverment spends millions of dollars on this space crap,still dont know what they are looking for,a martion maybe,but updaing our 911 system seems to me is a heck of a lot more important than somebody walking around on the moon for some reason i still cant figure out and thats just 1 instance.our government blows more money than i bet it would take to update the system.just my opinion,but its about time our government thought about us for awhile.
December 12, 2008, 2:41 pm CST


Quote From: exsmokey

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but when I hear the president of a company or organization or a CEO say we need to update the technology but we lack funding . . . . I'm inclined to suggest that someone needs to look at his or her salary!!!!!  I believe the tax dollars are out there just not being directed to the right place.
Not only are they ridiculously overpaid they also get bonuses and all kinds of perks.  

Did you see Michael Moore's letter today?  It was titled Senate to the Middle Class: Drop Dead.   Same thing with CEOs.  You could just as easily say CEOS to the Middle Class: Drop Dead.   The truth is these people are so sick and evil they don't care if you and me die as long as it allows them to buy an extra hummer or corporate jet.   
December 12, 2008, 2:43 pm CST

additional info on taxes

Quote From: rurazoff

Cell Phones are not perfect.  Neither is 911.  In a socially advanced country, there are still areas that are not served by cell phones.  In the rural areas of the United States, cell phone towers are scarce.  Farming is considered the one of the most dangerous occupation in the country.  We tell farmers to carry their cell phones in cases of emergency, yet they cannot get service.  By law, we are all required to pay a 911 tax on our cell phones.  This is very unfair.  To top it off, the cell phone providers are considering taking down towers in rural areas due to decreased revenue.  This is a topic near and dear to my heart as my father was in a farming accident and if he hadn't been attended by 2 of my brothers would have died.  His foot was caught in an auger.  This caused an artery to be cut in half and the bones to splinter.  If that 911 call had been dropped and he hadn't been attended by someone, he would be dead.  This is all about money.  Cell phone companies have been offered free property to put up towers and refuse.  We have to ability to make cell phone service available to all.  How many have to die before we do?

In my area, 911 receives nine cents per month from land line users. We receive only seven cents per month from cell phone users. Since there has been such an increase in cell use and a decrease in land line use, many emergency services/911 providers are seeing less and less money coming in to update and maintain the technology and equipment to keep 911 the most effective it can be. I know all emergencies don't conveniently happen near a land line and for that, I am grateful cell phones are available. But cell phones are only as good as the information the person calling from it is giving to the dispatcher. If possible, the absolute best way for us to get help out is to use a land line.

December 12, 2008, 2:46 pm CST

Dallas Area 911

When I was in college, I called the police station to file a noise complaint about my neighbors.  Instead of talking to a police officer to make the complaint they routed my call from the police station to the 911 office to make the complaint.  This seemed really unnecessary given the fact that I was calling the police station for a non-emergency.  Could this be another way we could free up our 911 operators to deal only with emergencies?  I couldn't believe that my call to the police station was re-routed to 911. 

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