(GARY, Ind.) — A 911 dispatcher in Gary, Indiana, was placed on leave after telling a caller no ambulances were available and failing to transfer the call to the fire department across the street from the caller’s location.
The incident happened last month. The Lake County dispatcher offered no additional help to the caller, whose friend had fainted while at a health club, according to ABC station WLS-TV in Chicago.
“We’re kind of short on medics so it’s going to be a minute,” the unidentified dispatcher told the caller.
“You said who?” the caller replied.
“We don’t have any medics and it’s going to be a minute,” the dispatcher said.
“OK, let me take him to the hospital,” the caller said.
Problems with 911 dispatchers extend beyond the Midwest. A dispatcher in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was placed on paid leave for allegedly repeatedly hanging up on Spanish-speaking callers.
“I don’t speak Spanish. I speak English,” the dispatcher told one caller.
The city’s police chief said dispatchers are expected to get a translator on the line if they’re having difficulty understanding a caller, according to ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a dispatcher resigned after audio was released from a recent emergency call in which he told a teen, who called to report her friend had been shot, to “deal with it yourself” before abruptly hanging up.
In Laurel, Maryland, a dispatcher was reassigned after telling a 13-year-old caller “let’s stop whining, it’s hard to understand you,” as she struggled to answer questions about her father after he had been hit by a car, according to ABC affiliate WMAR-TV in Baltimore.
Often working 12-hour days and handling millions of 911 calls each year, dispatchers have one of the most stressful jobs in the country.
“The burnout rate for dispatchers is typically three years,” said Jeff Hewitt, a former 911 operator. “What you have to do is kind of compartmentalize your frustration and your anger because nobody calls you on the best day of their life.”
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