Hang Ups Delay 911 Response in Kearns Fire

Hang Ups Delay 911 Response in Kearns Fire


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Ashley Hayes/Alex Cabrero ReportingA Kearns man who enjoyed having a fire in his fireplace before going to bed woke up last night smelling smoke.

The man's house was on fire, but the scariest part for him is what happened next. He says 911 didn't respond to his call.

Jay Doty says he woke up, his house near 4700 West 5200 South was on fire, he called 911, and then he was placed on hold.

Jay Doty: "My front room was full of smoke. So I called 911 and they put me on hold. So I hung up and called again. It took ten to fifteen minutes before they would answer me on 911."

He says when a dispatcher finally answered, she asked him what his problem was and then told him to hold on while she got the fire department. Doty says the woman never came back on the phone, but by then the fire department arrived at his house.

Doty kept calling back. But, as it turns out, a new system in place at 911 can make response time longer if you do hang up. He admits he hung up several times when trying to reach someone at 911.

If you hang up while waiting for a dispatcher, that call is still in their system. When a dispatcher answers, he or she then has to work on that call even if it is a hang up, just to make sure nothing bad happened.

If you keep calling 911 back, as Doty did while his house was burning this morning, it only puts more calls into 911's cue system, and those calls, even if hang ups, are answered in order.

Geana Randall, Valley Emergency Communications: "We take the responsibility to call back on every 911 to try and verify that there isn't a problem because we do get a lot of 911 hang ups. That's a good thing to point out as well, that if you do make a mistake, please stay on the line as well and let us verify your name, your phone number, and your address."

Doty told us this morning it took 15 minutes before a fire truck arrived. 911's log showed it was 11 minutes which they say could've been less than 5 minutes if not for all the hang-ups.

911 was fully staffed this morning and working on two other emergencies.

Hang Ups Delay 911 Response in Kearns Fire

Doty says while all of this was going on, he was trying to get his dogs out of the house. He has mother and father Bassett hounds and their puppies.

Jay Doty: "The dogs were right with me all the time. I went to get the puppies and they stayed right with me till the fire department came. Then they were curious with the fire department."

Doty says those dogs are like people to him, they are his kids. He's relieved that they got out okay, but feels more of his house might have been saved if 911 had responded to his call sooner.

Firefighters say the fire was contained pretty much to the wall of his home. They believe the house may have about 20-thousand dollars in damage. They also say despite the problems he had with 911, the fire department made it to his home within the required amount of time.

Firefighters say fireplace fires can be avoided by having a professional inspect them each year.... and clean the flue.

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