Confusion over 911 call results in dispatch delay

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 4:25 p.m. MST

Confusion over new dispatch jurisdictions resulted in a delay for a person who called 911 Wednesday needing emergency medical attention.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Confusion over dispatch jurisdiction resulted in a minutes-long delay for a person who called 911 Wednesday needing emergency medical attention.

From the time the 911 call was answered until the time the first emergency unit was dispatched, five minutes had elapsed. Most calls take an average of less than two minutes, according to dispatchers.

The first emergency unit arrived at the house 13 minutes after the 911 call was placed.

The problem was that Salt Lake City didn't realize the incident was in their dispatch area.

"The caller needed a medical response and it should have been dispatched from Salt Lake City on behalf of Sandy, it should have been a Sandy response unit," said Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond. "That's something that should have been recognized by our dispatcher but wasn't."

Because of Wednesday's incident, a new protocol was established Thursday to avoid future delays for emergency fire service.

Since Oct. 27, all emergency calls for Sandy police and fire units have been dispatched out of Salt Lake City. Prior to that, Sandy was part of the Valley Emergency Communications Center, which dispatches for most of the police and fire agencies in the south end of Salt Lake County, including West Valley City, Draper, South Jordan and West Jordan.

While emergency officials admit there have been minor issues as both Sandy and Salt Lake City get used to their new arrangement, they say Wednesday's incident was rare.

"I don't think we've had anything of this magnitude. There have been growing pains as far as there have been some added time," said VECC spokeswoman Geana Randall.

Wednesday's incident happened in a pocket of unincorporated Salt Lake County that is surrounded by Sandy. At 8:12 a.m., a resident called 911 needing an ambulance, said Randall. The call was received by VECC.

The VECC dispatcher recognized the call was within the Sandy Fire Department's boundaries and needed to be transferred to Salt Lake City's dispatch center. The Salt Lake City dispatcher, however, did not make the connection.

"There was apparently some issue on their end, some indication to the call taker on their end that they didn't understand it was a Sandy call, so they declined to go on it," Randall said.

Raymond said a dispute between dispatchers over jurisdiction lasted less than a minute before the VECC dispatcher decided to just get a Unified Fire Authority unit rolling. VECC, however, noted it still took some time for them to manually enter the required information needed at that point to send a unit.

The first emergency unit arrived at the residence where the 911 call was made at 8:25 a.m. — 13 minutes after the initial 911 call was placed. The patient was transported to the hospital. There was no word Thursday on that person's condition.

Also unknown Thursday was whether there was a unit from the Sandy Fire Department that was closer and available at that time that could have responded quicker.

Raymond admitted that there have been "minor misunderstandings" about jurisdictional issues since Sandy switched to Salt Lake City's dispatch center, but said they are expected wrinkles that come with any new system. He said the issue with the dispatcher wrongly rejecting the call was being handled internally.

Within Sandy, there are "islands" or pockets of unincorporated Salt Lake County. Unified police handles those areas for police calls. Unified Fire Authority and the Sandy Fire Department, however, have an agreement that the closest unit will respond to a 911 call, regardless of jurisdiction.

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