Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Rest Of The Story

Back in August I told a little story about a dispatcher I work with who saved two infants from being stabbed to death by their distraught mother.

*see: When Things Are Not Funny

Someone (or two someones) accused me of making the story up, citing that they could not find an independent source for the story. I chose not to use Adriel's name in my story because using people's real names has caused unexpected results in the past (See: Sherry Dion).

My coworkers (jerbear in particular) immediately had my back in the comments area (which I still appreciate) but for anyone who was skeptical or anyone who missed my initial story (shame – shame on you!) here's your independent source:

From our local chapter of NENA (and there's a picture of Adriel there which I'm not using here for a couple of reasons):

Lifesaving Award for Los Anchorage Police Department Dispatcher Adriel Grimshaw

On August 17, 2006 at approximately 22:00 hours, Comm Clerk II Adriel Grimshaw received a 911 call from a female who said she wanted to kill her boys. She went on to say she receives no support from their dad and that she had left a note. She hung up after saying we should come over and arrest her.

Adriel immediately redialed the number and, recognizing the potential danger to the children, raised the call to a Priority 1. Upon answering the phone, Adriel remained calm and patient as the woman screamed and said she hadn’t hurt the children yet, but that she had a knife. Again, she hung up and Adriel redialed in an attempt to keep her on the line.

Once the caller picked up the phone, she began a hysterical tirade about her depression and how she could no longer deal with her children. Adriel remained calm and showed great empathy, telling the caller she also was a mom and that she understood how difficult raising children can be. The caller again emphasized she had a knife and was going to do something. After asking where the woman’s children were, she said they were still there and disconnected once more.

Adriel was able to reconnect once more and listened to the woman scream that she couldn’t deal with the situation any longer. She said again that she had already written a note and spoke of killing the boys. Each subsequent call indicated the situation was deteriorating rapidly.

After the woman disconnected a fourth time, Adriel dialed again but this time received an answering machine. Realizing the woman might be listening to the message, Adriel carried on a one-sided conversation, speaking in a supportive manner and urging her to pick up the phone to talk with her. Only after officers arrived and broke into the home did she disconnect. When officers arrived and kicked the door, they found the woman standing over her children with knife in hand ready to stab them.

Although dispatchers and calltakers are trained for situations such as these, this incident could easily have had a tragic ending had Adriel not been calm, persistent, empathetic, and determined to make sure the children were safe until officers arrived. Early on, she recognized the seriousness of the call and the need for a code response. It is likely the two children are alive today because of her and the actions of the officers on scene.

a) note that the woman did NOT call saying "I'm thinking of hurting my kids, please help me," she called saying "I'm going to kill my children, please come arrest me." We're just lucky she called ahead for reservations rather than waiting until she had done the deed.

b) It's worth mentioning that this was just one of about 20 calls for service Adriel loaded during the telephone portion of her shift that night. She had belligerent callers, drunk callers, belligerent AND drunk callers, etc., reporting a lot of nuisance problems both before this call and after this call. Shifting gears like that is part of what makes our job stressful. It's not just the individual calls themselves.

c) I was one of Adriel's trainers and would love to take some sort of secondary credit for this "save" but it was all her. I'm very happy she was recognized with a life saving award; we almost never get them (there have been two given to dispatchers in the ten years I've worked for this agency). She's a credit to our profession.

So go hug a dispatcher today! (Except for me due to a tender belly and a strict "no touchy" rule)


PJ said...

Great followup. Thanks for sharing it with us. Congratulations to Ariel once again and thanks to you on behalf of dispatchers everywhere for your comments to the press.

Jas said...

Never doubted you man!

Anonymous said...

wow Eric, I feel like a celebrity... thanks for your kind words about me and all the coverage you have given me. I am a faithful blog reader and you are responsible for many 3 am morning laughs at many of your stories...the cottillion one was my favorite....ok i didn't mean to be anon but i couln't figure out the other choices....Adriel

John Cowart said...

This post generates nothing but respect. Good job!

Lindsey said...

awesome job Adriel!!! and awesome job Eric for posting the initial story and then showing all those doubters that the story was real..I of course knew it was real!!! APD ROCKS!!!

jen said...

you and your coworkers are so impressive. thank you for sharing stories like these. it gives your readers some insight into what your job is all about and the critical part dispatchers play in "the system".

many kudos to miss adriel!!

shandi said...

Great story Eric. I wasn't around for the first version. Glad you did the follow-up.

I'm so thankful there are people like you. I don't think I could handle the stress and responsibility. It would drive me nuts being on the other end of that phone. Kudos to you Ariel and those like you.

KaraMia said...

I think what you guys do takes tremendous courage and awesome people skills.