JAY — In a packed Delaware County commissioners' meeting on Tuesday, several residents expressed outrage over slow response times and inadequate training by 911 dispatchers in incidents where several people, including three children, have died in the past nine months.
“We have a problem with slow response times,” said Danny Duncan, county commissioner for District 3. “This county is going to come up with a solution.”
“In the past 12 to 18 months, things are going downhill instead of making strides,” said Cindy Hazelwood, a Jay Police Department dispatcher.
The national average for rescue units to be “toned out” is 60 seconds or less, she said.
Toned out means fire, ambulance and Emergency Medical Services units are notified about an accident.
Most of Tuesday's firestorm centered on the drowning death of 7-year-old Kaitlynn Garcia.
Garcia drowned at the Eucha State Park pool on June 15.
Since the child's drowning, Sheriff Harlan Moore asked District Attorney Eddie Wyant for an outside independent investigation into the incident surrounding the 911 call.
During the nearly six-minute 911 call, the dispatcher is overheard making several mistakes, including misdialing the telephone number for the Jay Police Department and the location of the pool.
Nearly four minutes pass before the dispatcher is able to reach the Jay Police Department, according to a Jay Police Department radio log.
“How many children do we have to lose?” said Bobbi Parris, a Delaware County resident.
“The dispatcher could have went outside and yelled for help at the Jay Police Department, and it would have been faster,” Parris said.
Other incidents were presented to the commissioners, including that of a 3-year-old who died in a house fire on Sept. 26 near Lakemont Shore.
“The (911) dispatcher told her (the mother) to hang up and call the sheriff's office,” Parris said.
Parris asked the commissioners, “Who has time to look through a telephone book?”
“It's not an isolated incident — it's a total breakdown,” resident Michael Morris said, referring to the 911 department.
Morris' 16-year-old son, Chase, died May 20.
“For four minutes and 45 seconds you hear (the caller) begging and pleading for help,” Morris said.
When the ambulance didn't arrive, Chase's brother and friends pulled him into their vehicle and drove to the hospital where they met the ambulance in the parking lot, he said.
The state's medical examiner said the autopsy for the teen is pending.
“From my house to the hospital is one minute and 31 seconds,” Morris told the commissioners.
Moore said the 911 center recently purchased PowerPhone, which will train the dispatcher on how to help callers.
Moore explained the equipment will direct the dispatcher on how to talk a caller through CPR, or other lifesaving measures. Moore said the training hasn't started, but once completed, the sheriff's office will be the only small agency in the state to have this type of equipment.
“We know we have an issue,” said Tom Sanders, county commissioner for District 2. “Can they be corrected overnight? No.”