TULSA Update - More 911 misses reported

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By ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer 10/5/00 Callers say they couldn't get through to report a heart attack and a fire. More complaints of unanswered emergency calls to Tulsa's 911 center have surfaced since officials acknowledged that dispatchers missed about 15 minutes of calls Sept. 23 because of an equipment failure. City officials are investigating citizens' claims of getting only incessant ringing after dialing 911 in emergency instances Sept. 20 and 25 -- before and after the equipment failure reportedly was isolated.

Beth Loerke, school nurse at Metro Christian Academy, said she tried unsuccessfully to get through to 911 from three different phones to request an ambulance for a maintenance worker who was suffering a heart attack about 1:20 p.m. Sept. 20. Her calls from a cellular phone, a school system phone and a private line rang unanswered, she said.

She finally gave up and had an operator patch her through directly to the Emergency Medical Services Authority to request the ambulance.

EMSA Spokesman Chris Metcalf said their crew arrived shortly after 1:30 p.m. at the school at 6363 S. Trenton Ave.

Loerke said having her calls to 911 unanswered made the medical emergency that much more upsetting, but she didn't remember to report her difficulties until she read a Tulsa World story about several people whose 911 calls of Sept. 23 went unanswered.

"It was alarming to see they said it only happened that Saturday. That's not true," she said.

"How many people think to dial `0' anymore? Not many," Loerke said.

"They need to be honest with us, and they need to have a backup plan for when this happens."

She said the maintenance worker had angioplasty and is recovering.

She said it was her first occasion in her 8-1/2 years of working as the school's nurse to have to call an ambulance. But with about 850 students and about 100 faculty and staff members on the campus, Loerke said odds are good that other emergencies will come up.

"With a very active school, you just never know when you'll need an ambulance," she said. "You just count on 911 being there."

Dale Frizzell, division manager of Tulsa's Public Safety Communications, said preliminary investigation into the matter had turned up no record of calls from Metro Christian.

Stacy Pleasant, who lives in the 12000 block of South Toledo Avenue in Tulsa, said she called the Bixby Fire Department directly after she couldn't get through to Tulsa's 911 call center to report a fire near her house between about 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. one afternoon.

She said it happened about one to two weeks before Sept. 27 and was during a statewide burn ban.

The Bixby Fire Department contacted the proper agency, and fire trucks eventually showed up, she said.

Bixby Fire Chief Dennis Moore verified her story, saying he remembered it happening about Sept. 25.

"It was out of our response area, but she had told us about the problem she was having getting through to 911. We started to leave to go to the incident, (but) we never got out of the station. Our dispatch got ahold of the department whose area the incident was in, and they said they didn't need us to assist," Moore said.

Frizzell said this address is in Tulsa's call area and that Pleasant's 911 call should have been received at Tulsa's 911 center.

"I'm sorry there's been a loss of faith in the system, but we need to check all of these out," Frizzell said.

"The citizens deserve to know what's going on with the system."


-- Doris (reaper@pacifier.com), October 06, 2000

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