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Confusion over county, city lines leads to delayed 911 response

(Mike Anderson, KSL News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Confusion over jurisdiction lines, and the closest available emergency crews led to a delayed 911 response Wednesday.

Officials said the delay was caused when dispatchers in Salt Lake City took a call transferred over from Valley Emergency Communications in West Valley. According to Valley Emergency Communications, an ambulance arrived about 13 minutes after the call.

"We deal with over 500 transferred calls a day," said Deputy Director for Salt Lake City 911, Lisa Burnette.

Burnette said while her dispatchers work to handle those calls quickly, a small disagreement led to a 46-second delay.

Salt Lake City dispatch started routing calls for Sandy City on Oct. 27. Valley Emergency handles calls for the Unified Fire Authority which covers Salt Lake County.

GPS coordinates determined that Wednesday morning's call came from a piece of unincorporated Sandy — an "island" of county land.

"These islands are actually a large learning curve for us," Burnette said. "We are reviewing everything pretty much every day since we took Sandy over."

While the area where the call came from was in county jurisdiction, the Unified Fire Authority has an agreement with Sandy Fire. Sandy has agreed to take calls from that area because they are usually closer. An apparent disagreement between dispatchers over the policy led to the delay.

"Agencies sometimes transfer a call in error," Burnette said. "Our dispatcher wanted to make sure that the citizen received the proper help, as expediently as possible."

Rather than prolong the disagreement, the dispatcher at Valley Emergency opted to send an ambulance from Unified Fire.

"Theoretically, they (Sandy) would have been able to get there more quickly," said Valley Emergency spokesperson Geana Randall.

Burnette said Salt Lake City 911 is taking ownership of the delay. She said employees will continue to train so that it won't happen again.

"We're actually reviewing all of the processes with regards to transferred calls now," Burnette said.


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