Pasco 911 calls not answered promptly

6:17 PM, Aug 13, 2007   |    comments
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New Port Richey, Florida - When dialing 911 in Pasco County, the call will always come in to Pasco Fire Rescue. If it is a police emergency, the fire dispatchers pass the call on to the sheriff's dispatchers.

That's where the problem comes in.

When the calls are transferred, they aren't always answered promptly.

10 News made a public records request for 911 transfers for just a single day, and found several calls were not answered promptly, including one that rang 40 times, going several minutes before someone answered.

As the phone keeps on ringing, you can hear the fire dispatcher say, "This is ridiculous."

"If there is a life or death situation just across the room, nine times out of 10 they are going to know about it even before they get the call," says Pasco Sheriff's Spokesman Doug Tobin.

Tobin says that because fire and sheriff's dispatchers are only separated by a divider, the sheriff's dispatchers will recognize a life or death emergency call coming in.

However, we pointed out on the screen they don't know until they answer the call. Tobin admits on the screen that is correct.

And it's not as if the sheriff's office is unaware of the problems inside the Pasco County 911 center. Just last month, the Pasco Fire Chief told the Sheriff's Office about the concerns, but it appears as if the SO is putting part of the blame back on the fire department.

"If you're saying there is a life or death situation where it was transferred, there are two issues," Tobin explains. "We have a dispatcher for the county that is just sitting there listening to a phone ring in a life or death situation and we have a problem on our side we need to know about it."

But the standard operating procedure is for the fire dispatchers to transfer the call and stay on the line, not scream to sheriff's dispatchers on the other side of the partition.

Tobin says he'd be the first to tell you he'd like to have the phone answered on the first or second ring, but there are going to be times when you call the sheriff's office that you are going to get the phone to ring a number of times.

And if you are one who needs help, it can create a helpless situation.

Mike Deeson, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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