Thursday, January 07, 2010


So, I'm getting dressed this morning and listening to the TODAY Show, and they're talking about this horrible incident in which a 21-month old boy had wandered out into his backyard and was strangled by his family's soccer's net.

The mother frantically called 911 as soon as she found him and yelled and screamed and begged the 911 operator for help. "WHAT SHOULD I DO? WHAT CAN I DO? DO I NEED TO CPR? TELL ME WHAT TO DO??!?!"

It was grueling to hear.

The poor woman was distraught, beside herself with terror, and pleading for assistance. And yes, I do realize that while they're on the phone with you the operators are actually busily trying to contact and dispatch emergency responders. But 911 is a hotline. Or at least that's the perception.

We all know that in a medical emergency every single moment is precious. Basic medical attention provided on the spot has saved innumerable lives while they were waiting for medical services to arrive.

But do you know what that damn operator did? He told her to calm down. He didn't ask her any questions that might help him better assess the situation; he didn't tell her to check if her child's airway was obstructed, if he had a pulse, if she had even removed the netting from around his neck. Nothing. Just "calm down." Eleven fucking times. For FOUR WHOLE MINUTES he did nothing, gave her nothing, not even the very basic 1-2-3s of CPR that you can get from a goddamned free iPhone app. He gave her NOTHING...but indifference.

And do you know why? Because, evidently, in many states (18, according to TODAY), there is NO MEDICAL TRAINING REQUIRED to become a 911 operator.


Does that not just completely flip you on your ass?!?! How is that even possible?

I know hair salons and grocery stores that require CPR training of all their employees. How is this even remotely okay that the one number we are all trained to call, that we drill and drill and drill and train our children to call, and trust that our babysitters and caretakers and teachers and principals will call, can't even help you with the very basics of medical attention through a moment of panic during an emergency????

If all they are is receptionists, dispatchers, who, evidently, often get paid less than a McDonald's employee, then someone really needs to make that publicly known because as a society we are being massively deceived.

How is this not the equivalent of automakers suddenly coming out and saying, hey, you know what, that seat belt thing, eh...don't worry about it, it doesn't make a bit of difference.

So, then the show goes on to make some, in my opinion, pretty offensive comments about having to "resort to" fast food workers and grocery store cashiers to man the phones because of the severe shortage of operators. But what's wrong with fast food workers and cashiers?? I mean, who the hell cares WHO that person is, or what their educational background is or is not, SO LONG AS THEY ARE ADEQUATELY TRAINED, and can triage a basic emergency call while dispatching the proper medical services. I don't need a fucking M.D. answering my child's 911 call in an emergency -- but I do need someone who's not gonna lecture him for playing with the phone and then hang up on him, for crissakes!!!

And then they went further to say that due to this shortage, they may also have to *gasp* have convicted criminals manning the phones.

And I thought, wait a minute, that's fricking genius!! Everyone's always complaining about how our prison system just sucks, and how our inmates just get a free ride, and how hardly any of them are ever actually rehabilitated. And I know that there are SOME programs out there (like the ones that have convicts training special service dogs, or cleaning up the highways, etc), but why can't we have them answering 911 calls? Why can't it be one of those jobs that they have to earn with good behavior? I mean, what better way to repay their debt to society than to be of real service to real people in real emergency situations? They could receive basic medical training, they could learn basic customer service and call center skills, and we can eliminate this shortage and fulfill a community need.

And no, I'm not slamming ALL 911 operators because I know and have heard those amazing calls in which someone goes totally out of their way to help calm someone down, to help them through a traumatic event, to help actually save lives. But this isn't about them.

This is about the incompetent idiots who are treating this job like a dinner-time telemarketer instead of recognizing the gravity of their position and accepting some accountability for their role in a potentially life or death situation.

So...I don't know about you, but I, for one, am going to post the direct line phone numbers to our local police, fire department, and poison control on my refrigerator INSTEAD OF 911 from now on.


Woo222 said...

Wow, that is awful. No parent would be calm if they discovered their child like that. I've heard of 911 operators who direct the caller in performing CPR and end up saving someone's life. That should have happened here. What a sad story. I agree, I think having criminals answer the calls is a great idea. ~Susan

Stephanie Stearns Dulli said...

My husband was JUST telling me about this and I am just as outraged and distraught over it as you. I think having criminals working the call centers might be a great idea! Put em to work...

Kate@And Then I Was a Mom said...

Amen. The entire dispatcher thing is about as ridiculous as some of the people hired to screen luggage at the airport. I think the convict idea might have some merit...

Btw--new reader, enjoying your blog.