Mistakes may be costing first responders time in responding to emergencies

by: Dan Tordjman Updated:

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IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. - Mistakes may be costing first responders precious time in responding to emergencies in Iredell County.

Eyewitness News has 911 calls that show the confusion in getting paramedics to the person calling for help.

“I think my mom is having a seizure, or she ... and she's jerking a lot and I need y'all to come out here fast,” one caller said.

It was the panicked plea of an 11-year-old boy calling for help as his mother convulsed.

“Beu, Beulah Road. And uh, and uh, and I think my mom is having a seizure or something,” the caller said.

“Deal Road in Mooresville, ma'am? Or Statesville? Deal Lane?” an Iredell dispatcher said.

“Statesville.  Beu, Beulah Road,” the caller said. “Is the, uh, ambulance coming?”

“Yes, they're coming, OK?” the dispatcher said. “They're coming as fast as they can.”

And rescuers were coming, but to the wrong address. Instead of dispatching paramedics to Beulah Road, they were sent to the Deal Lane home of Kaye Harmon.

“I was lost,” Harmon said. “I really did not have a clue as to what was going on.”

Paramedics didn't either.  

“We were just trying to think what else would be near here or went with Deal,” said Harmon’s daughter, Annette. “What would rhyme with Deal?”

“Of course the main concern was whoever needed it -- that they got it,” Harmon added.

The person who needed it was nearly 15 miles away at Beulah Road. There the 11-year-old boy stood outside waiting and then called 911 again.

“And I called a bit earlier and I told them Beulah Road,” the boy said.

“OK, I have people in the area. Is it Deal? Or Beal?” the dispatcher said.

“Beulah. B-e-u-l-a-h,” the caller said.

The boy's mother seized for 26 minutes before paramedics arrived. She survived.

Eyewitness News uncovered a similar case a few days earlier.

“Over here on South Oakland Street,” a caller said.

“OK, what do you need?” an Iredell dispatcher said.

“My grandson got shot in the leg,” the caller said.

“I am nervous. I cannot stay on this phone,” the caller said.

“OK, is it South Oakland or Opal?” the dispatcher said.

“Opal,” the caller replied.

“Opal?” the dispatcher said.

“Over here by Mitchell College,” the caller said.

“By Mitchell College?” the dispatcher said.

“Yes,” the caller said.

“And it's Oakland?” the dispatcher said.

Without an accurate address, it took first responders nearly 20 minutes to find the victim.  He also survived.

But Eyewitness News asked the head of Iredell County's Emergency Communications, David Martin -- how could dispatchers not be sure where they're sending first responders?

Martin didn't want to go on camera but said dispatchers should have done more, like pinpointing where the calls were coming from through their cell-phones, technology known as phase-2 or pinging.

They also could have asked the callers for cross streets and to spell the street name.

As a result of Eyewitness News’ investigation, supervisors are now going over training, revising protocol and dispatchers will now phase-2 or ping all calls where there's any question about the location.

“I'm grateful they're changing it. We have talked about that since this has happened, you know, how can they not know the street address?” Annette Harmon said.