Indiana 911 Dispatcher Disciplined for Failing to Help Man Who Fainted
08/11/2015 AT 11:55 AM EDT
The caller's friend, Clement Ervin, fainted last month while working out in a health club. The dispatcher told the caller, "Okay, we're kind of short on medics, so it's going to be a minute," according to a 911 tape obtained by Chicago ABC affiliate WLS.
When the caller followed up, the dispatcher reiterated, "We don't have any medics and it's going to be a minute."
What the dispatcher should have done was contact the fire department, which was located across the street from the gym, according to Brian Hitchcock, executive director of the Lake County 911 Department.
"You don't tell someone you don't have resources; you contact the agency and tell them your problem, then they're the ones that guide the resources," Hitchcock told WLS.
In June, Gary 911 dispatchers mishandled another emergency when Burt Sanders, 44, called 911 from inside a church, complaining of chest pains. Cops responded but left the church after finding the doors locked. Seven hours after Sanders initially called, his niece found him dead of a heart attack inside the church.
After Sanders' death, one 911 dispatcher was fired for not communicating the urgency of his situation and one was suspended for not telling the police and fire department to break down the door.
The incidents in Gary are among several high-profile blunders by 911 dispatchers.
A Lawrence, Massachusetts, 911 operator was placed on leave for allegedly hanging up on Spanish-speaking residents of a city in which 75 percent of the population speaks Spanish.
And in July, a New Mexico dispatcher was reassigned after he told a teen whose friend had been shot to "deal with it yourself" before apparently hanging up.
A Laurel, Maryland, dispatcher was reassigned after telling a 13-year-old caller whose father had been struck by a car to "stop whining." (When medics arrived, the teenager's father was declared dead at the scene.)
Byron Bonham III, a business representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, which represents Gary's 911 operators, told PEOPLE that although he couldn't speak to the specific incident involving Clement Ervin, many 911 dispatchers in Gary work 16-hour days. "There's a lot of burnout when they're forced to work 16 hours. Because they're emergency services, they wind up being told they're not allowed to go home. The number of hours working sure plays into it," Bonham said.
He added: "The way they do the job as a whole is phenomenal when it comes to getting people the attention they need, with a few isolated incidents that make the news."
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