Saturday, February 9, 2008

Put on hold by 911 when your bed's on fire?

Brenda Orr, a woman with a disability unable to get out of a bed that was on fire, called 911 for help. However, she was put on hold. Here's the 911 transcript. The second 911 operator urged her to get out of the house, but time went by as the bed continued to burn.

This happened in Doylestown , PA and is being investigated, although initially they are saying retraining is what is necessary. The lack of training shows in the actual transcript near the end where the 911 worker says the woman "won't get out of the house...she says she's disabled" when in actuality Brenda, who had MS, could not get out of the burning bed, much less the house. The inadequately trained 911 operator didn't think of that as a possibility. When I listened to the tape I heard the 911 operator say it sounded like the caller was trying to put out the fire in the bed - this happens toward the end of the tape, when Orr is no longer able to respond.

You really have to listen to the call which is linked in this article to see how it all happened. No one responded to her saying that her bed was on fire. Instead the caller was put on hold, even after she said she couldn't hold, that it was an emergency and her bed was on fire. Orr even gave her address before she was put on hold. And even though she continually said her bed was on fire and it was an emergency, she waited 54 seconds to get a second operator, who did not respond by calling for help until 2 minutes, 7 seconds after Orr called.

A memo issued after the incident states:

"“While this almost one-minute delay may not have changed the outcome of this incident, we will never know if a rescue of Brenda Orr could have been effected if there was not a delay. In 40 seconds a fireman or police officer probably could have searched and exited the entire home. Could this have been long enough to make a difference?..This issue needs to be addressed and resolved with the Bucks County 911 Center.”

Orr had a habit of smoking in bed, according to her friends, and may have taken a sleeping pill that night. By the time firefighters arrived, they were unable to fully enter the house because the fire was so widespread. Orr's body was found at the side of the bed in a kneeling position by firefighters.

There appears to be an issue about how many times the phone rang before it was initially answered at 911, as well as the overall response time. 27 seconds went by and the phone rings continually , which you can hear in the taped recording above, before it's initially answered.