In 2013, Metro-Nashville Emergency Communication officials suspended, reprimanded and accepted the resignation of 911 call-takers following investigations of complaints against the emergency dispatchers.
There were 29 complaints filed, 17 of which were determined to be well-founded following internal investigations.
The number of founded complaints is a fraction of the nearly one million calls dispatchers handle from the public as well as police and fire.
In one instance, a man called to report a wreck on Interstate 40, but the dispatcher told him to hang up and call the non-emergency number of 615-862-8600. The caller said he was not going to do that and hung up.
The dispatcher then called the man back.
Dispatcher: We asked you to call 862-8600 because it is the non-emergency line.
Caller: Okay, I'm driving and trying to remember a number and all of that.
Dispatcher: Sir… Can you listen to me? The reason we ask you to do that is because 911 is for people who need CPR or have been shot. We take those calls first on 911.
The dispatcher had a similar complaint that same year.
She eventually resigned rather than being fired for other policy violations within the center.
Another dispatcher was suspended for a day without pay following an emergency call from a woman who did not speak English as her first language.
Dispatcher: What is the address of the emergency?
Caller: Do you have someone who speaks…?
Dispatcher: No, we speak English.
Protocol is for the 911 call-taker to immediately connect a caller who does not speak English to a language line so an interpreter can help the person.
In another call, a doctor's office called 911 back after waiting several minutes for an ambulance to arrive for a woman believed to be having a serious medical condition.
Caller: We actually called about 15 to 20 minutes ago and we still haven't had any paramedics over here yet.
Dispatcher: We have got your call and we have got someone en route over there. Has anything changed?
Caller: She is just progressively getting worse. We are hoping she is not going to have a stroke. She is getting progressively worse.
Dispatcher: Alright ma'am, I will update the call and let them know you are still waiting, but if you need to call us in the future, go ahead and call us at 862-8600, Okay?
The dispatcher was given a written reprimand.
Duane Phillips, the executive director of the 911 call center, told News 2 the calls are constantly monitored for quality assurance and for investigation purposes.
“They are handling a lot of calls every day,” he said. “Sometimes their personal business gets involved and that is when we have to investigate.”
He continued, “When they get overwhelmed or rude on the phone, we will follow up on every complaint.”
Phillips said dispatchers are trained to handle every call according to strict protocols developed for the emergency communications center.
“We are going to handle it and get them the people they need for their emergency,” Phillips said. “It's their emergency and our employee understand that just because it doesn't sound serious to us because we have listened to thousands of calls its still their emergency.”
Phillips added that during an investigation, his office contacts the person who called 911 and will actually play the audio back for the person to get their reaction to the call.
Anyone with a complaint about how their emergency call was handled can call 615-862-8600.