It’s been 18 months since Sumner County Emergency Communications consolidated under one roof.
The ECC dispatches fire, police, and medical calls for Sumner county, including all its cities; Millersville, Portland, Gallatin, Hendersonville, and Westmoreland.
It was supposed to make life-saving more effective and efficient, but some say it’s been anything but.
Millersville fire chief, Brandon Head says lost time can equate to lost lives.
“My ultimate job is life safety, and this is a concern.”
It all began on Saturday, Jan. 5. A 69-year-old man was suffering from a possible stroke.
Sumner County ECC dispatchers take the 911 call at 7:54 p.m. Instead of dispatching help to Winding Way in Millersville, dispatchers errantly send EMS units to Winding Way in Hendersonville. The wrong city and 10 miles away
At 8 p.m. six minutes after the first call for help, Hendersonville EMS crews arrived and found no patient.
By this time, the ECC realizes its mistake. They called the patient back and verified the correct address. Dispatchers also notified Millersville EMS crews and sent them to the correct address.
EMS crews are dispatched at 8:05 p.m. 11 minutes since the patient’s first call for help.
Chief Head says minutes matter.
“They do, especially in this case and who knows how long this patient had been experiencing those symptoms. ”
According to reports obtained by News 2, Millersville EMS units arrived at the patient’s house on Winding Way in Millersville at 8:16 p.m.
Because of the ECC mistake, it took 22 minutes to arrive at the house that is literally a minute away from the ambulance hall that would have responded initially had the call been dispatched correctly.
According to the CAD report, the patient was finally loaded in the ambulance at 8:34 p.m., 40 critical minutes after the first call for help.
The chief calls this mistake serious and he says it is not an isolated incident.
According to the chief, many police, fire, and EMS personnel in Sumner County tell similar stories and they are equally frustrated.
Last year, News 2 exposed problems at the Sumner County ECC. In one case in 2017, dispatchers sent Gallatin police on a wild goose chase for a wreck that took place in another city.
Police body cam shows the motorcycle cop flip-flopping back and forth looking for a nonexistent emergency.
At the time, director Rhonda Lea chalked it up to growing pains.
“We are human, and we make human errors,” said Lea.
“I feel like their training is rushed. They’ve had such a high turnover, they have just enough training to be dangerous. To get them on consoles, answering calls, and sending trucks to hopefully the right location, and it is not working,” said chief Head.
Some cities have considered pulling out of the contract with the ECC. Millersville says it would be too expensive for taxpayers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Rhonda Lea, Director of the Sumner County Emergency Communications Center, issued this statement:
We are certainly looking into this situation and evaluating what exactly took place that led the responders being dispatched to the incorrect address. Obviously, the ECC wants to ensure citizens are provided the most efficient service possible. Therefore, we are going look into all aspects of the situation to determine what could be done differently to prevent a similar situation.
News 2 also spoke to Anthony Holt, the Sumner County executive on this matter.
Holt says county leaders are aware of the problems and are working to correct them. He said that part of the problem is a high rate of turnover among the dispatchers once they are trained.
Holt says a strong economy plays a role.
“We train the people, and they leave for better positions. We are experiencing what everyone is experiencing. The economy is so good, there are a lot of options for workers. It’s a vibrant economy, but that leaves challenges for us. As soon as we train them, they are leaving. The lack of experience is creating issues. We are working diligently, collectively on the challenge.”
Holt adds, that there are bugs to be worked out now, but in the long run, the system will be more effective.