WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The way Wilson County 911 calls are handled may change in the near future after an 11-year-old called for help, was transferred, and hung up on.
The boy was calling about his little 10-year-old brother, who had accidentally shot himself in the stomach with a shotgun.
He called 911, and that call was transferred to the ambulance service and then to Lebanon Police Department because a gun was involved.
Here’s that call:
911 dispatcher: Wilson County 911, where’s your emergency
Brother: My brother shot himself.
911 dispatcher: you said your brother shot himself?
Brother: Yes, sir.
911 dispatcher: Stay on the line I’m going to transfer you to the Lebanon Police Department and notify the ambulance
After a few moments, a dispatcher from Lebanon police picked up and asked the 11-year-old boy to repeat himself, explaining once again what he just told the Wilson 911 dispatcher.
Here’s that call:
Police dispatch: Lebanon police and fire, where is your emergency?
Brother: The emergency is my brother shot himself and I’m home alone.
Police dispatch: We’ll get them out there, okay?
Brother: Ok, hurry please. Please, get mom on the phone. First, I don’t know where they are…
Brother: Hello? Are you there?
The dispatcher sent help then terminated the call. The director told News 2 the dispatcher was the only one working at the time and new emergency calls were stacking up, which is why the call was ended and the boy was left alone to tend to his injured bother.
The possible delay, redundancy and lack of dispatcher involvement are now being scrutinized by the Lebanon police and Wilson County 911 office.
Police Chief Mike Justice said the call was handled badly.
“We have a 911 system where calls here are transferred. There were discrepancies and we should have made sure we were on the line or someone was,” Chief Justice said. “It was a mistake on our part.”
He added there is a protocol now to make sure someone stays on the line with a victim, whether the call is through 911 or police.
“Like I said, the call was transferred and there was a gap. We share in the responsibility,” the chief added.
Justice was one of the first on the scene. He describes the 11-year-old caller and his 10-year-old brother who was shot as brave and composed.
“It was heartbreaking. Twenty-six-year vets are having problems with this call. It tears at your heart strings,” he told News 2. “Both little boys are tough, even the little boy who was shot. He was awake and oriented and he never cried and he actually prayed.”
“And the other little man did a great call on the 911 tape. He had to say what his emergency was twice; he did an amazing job,” the chief added.
Justice told News 2 it took them six minutes to get there, but in that six minutes, he would’ve liked for someone to stay on the phone with the 11-year-old.
“To reassure him that we are coming, to give his brother first aid and talk him through that,” he explained. “We have a lot of work to do. We have to sit down and as shareholders in emergency services to make it better.”
Karen Moore is interim director of Wilson County 911. She also said the process can and should be better.
“It came in as a shooting; our procedure is to transfer any shooting calls to the Lebanon Police Department,” Moore said. “We need to look at procedures. There are things we can do, things we can tweak, the procedures.”
She explained that when there is a call like that, they don’t need to have the caller repeat themselves.
“We could have chimed in and said, ‘Lebanon, we have a young man here who advises his brother shot himself,’ and then have the LPD dispatcher take over,” Moore added.
Moore says when Lebanon dispatchers hung up due to heavy call volume, Wilson County 911 was still recording the call. She says had it not been for the heavy influx of emergency calls coming in, dispatchers would have stayed on the line with the boy.
News 2 was told a meeting between the two agencies, Lebanon police and Wilson 911, is scheduled to hammer out details so this doesn’t happen again.