Inquiry Following 911 Dispatcher Asleep on the Job

County Council president demands answers

The president of the Montgomery County Council is demanding answers after a local 911 dispatcher fell asleep on the job and was heard snoring during a woman's frantic call for help, a story first reported by News4’s I-Team.

An inquiry is being conducted by the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service following the April 4 call in which a woman whose husband was having trouble breathing and was turning blue was transferred to a dispatcher but heard nothing but snoring.

“This kind of incident is totally unacceptable,” Council President Roger Berliner said. “It’s an embarrassment for our county and everyone involved is embarrassed because of it.”

The chief has already given a verbal report to council members, and a hearing may be held this summer.

Upon learning of the I-Team report, Berliner immediately asked the fire chief for a report.

“We will get a written report to our Public Safety Committee, and we will have a hearing in which he comes forward and explains his recommendations, which is what went wrong and what he’s going to do about,” Berliner said.

The dispatcher was 17 hours into a 24-hour shift, less than an hour away from a sleep break. He was working in a temporary facility. Dispatchers have since been moved to a newly arranged emergency call facility where supervisors have direct line of sight and can monitor their dispatchers more closely.

The union representing dispatchers said they have been working 24 hour shifts for the past seven years.

“It is a preferred shift for firefighters, something firefighters are very used to working, with the appropriate break times built into the 24-hour shift,” union Vice President Jeff Buddle said. “It has actually worked very well for us.”

Assistant Chief Scott Graham called it an isolated incident.

“The supervisors do a very good job,” he said. “That 911 call center is very busy. They handle and process about 120,000 calls a year. So with this one particular incident, we had human error.”

The dispatcher who fell asleep was disciplined.

The patient was transported and treated.

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