Sunday, April 09, 2006

One False Move

Boy's 911 Call Ignored as Mom Dies, Family Says
By David Runk,

DETROIT (April 7) — A 5-year-old boy called 911 to
report that his mother had collapsed in their apartment, but an operator told him he should not be playing on the phone, and she died before help arrived.

The family of Sherrill Turner, 46, does not know whether a swifter
response could have saved her life, but relatives want to know why the operator apparently treated the call as if it were a prank.

Police said the 911 response was under investigation.

Turner's son, Robert, placed two calls to 911 after his mother collapsed Feb. 20 on the kitchen floor. During one of the calls, an operator said: "You shouldn't be playing on the phone."

In a tape of the call, parts of which were broadcast by Detroit-area television stations, the operator said: "Now put her on the phone before I send the police out there to knock on the door and you gonna be in trouble."

In an audio of the tape played on TV, some of what the boy says is unintelligible.

Delaina Patterson, the eldest of Turner's 10 children, said police did
not arrive until three hours later. She said only Robert and his mother were home at the time.

Detroit police spokesman James Tate said it was at least an hour before authorities arrived, but he said he did not have details.

By that time, the boy's mother had died, he said.

"The operator may have believed he was playing on the phone," Tate said.

Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said it was important not to rush to judgment.

"If disciplinary action is recommended following the completion of the
investigation, then that is the course that will be taken," she said.

The 911 operator remains on the job amid the investigation, Tate said.
04-08-06 11:43 EDT


Okay, here's the problem: This looks so bad.

In my jurisdiction the call to check the residence would have been loaded right away. How long it took to get there would depend upon how many other calls were holding at the time and their priority (not just what the computer said but the dispatcher's discretion and instinct).

Most times it is kids playing on the phone. I am usually pretty firm with kids about the fact that they need to put an adult on the phone NOW, but I'm willing to listen to why they won't if they can come up with a reason. Mom's sleeping? Wake her up. If the child cannot wake up mom then we go lights and sirens and an ambulance goes with.

Easy to Sunday-night quarterback, though.

I'm happy to note that they didn't release the calltaker's name. If she's found negligent then fine but not until.

Either way, that calltaker is screwed.

If you are possibly responsible for the death of a stranger, go visit my renter: the Dramedy of Life. Tell her the story, she'll enjoy it!


TEN33GIRL said...

That is COMPLETELY unacceptable. The way things are done in my neck of the woods is that all calls are treated as CALLS FOR SERVICE. If the call taker feels that children may be playing on the phone, she simply notes it in the call. It's still a call worth responding to for this EXACT reason. I think the call taker was completely out of line to have made such an assumption. Even though you are correct in saying that MOST of those types of calls are in fact kids playing around. Still, what a tragedy.

Jaws said...

I voted for you.. surprize surprize huh? LOL

Wow.. personally I think ever call should be taken serious and let the police deal with the ones that are not when they get there.. then there are no What if.. ands.. and buts..

angel said...

They always talk aboutthe calls that go bad but I never hear of ones that go well. Don't you think that is interesting?

Eric said...

Oh it's unacceptable, that's for sure. I've tried to cajole kids to getting parents to the phone, I've made "velvet-hammer" threats to kids, but I've always loaded a call for service. Always.

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