Fire trucks not sent because 911 operator misunderstood word
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)-- Heinz Lange told Channel 3 he called 911 twice before a fire crew was sent to his home for the first of two fires June 30th. After 911 officials reviewed the tapes, they determined the mistake was on their end.
It wasn't that they ignored the first call, they misunderstood what the homeowner was requesting. In the recording, you can hear the caller say his house is on fire. The dispatcher thought he said his heart is on fire.
Homeowner Heinz Lange woke to smoke in his home on Bobby Dale Lane. He crawled out the window and quickly called 911:
Lange: I think my house is on fire.
911: Are you breathing normally?
Lange: Yeah, I'm okay.
911: Do you have any cardiac history?
Lange: Yea, but I'm ok.
911: So you don't want an ambulance anymore?
Lange: No, no.
Because of the miscommunication, the message wasn't relayed to the fire department, creating the need for a second call almost a half hour later:
Lange: I called earlier about a fire in my house. Are they on their way? What happened? What happened? Nobody coming?
911: We're getting them started that way, sir.
911 Executive Director John Stuermer says they're taking full responsibility for the communication breakdown.
"After the initial caller said his house is on fire, our call taker immediately started to ask questions on medical," says Stuermer. "It's not the caller's fault, we should have heard it right the first time."
Stuermer says the biggest issue was no one brought up the word fire after the initial reference. As rare as this incident is, Stuermer says a lesson will be learned.
"These are things that we're looking at now; what do we do to minimize the chance of that happening again," adds Stuermer.