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Veteran dispatchers say strict protocol and scripts hindered their ability to send help to 911 callers

Posted at 9:54 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 23:59:30-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The 911 dispatch protocol at the center of a lawsuit is causing two former dispatchers to speak out Friday.

For 21 years, Brittany Carter was on the other end of a 911 call.

“I had a dad on the phone one morning that his two-year-old wasn’t breathing. He was a twin. He ended up passing away," Carter said. "I’m like, 'This is taking too long.' It was horrible."

She blames Priority Dispatch’s “Police Pro QA” for increasing dispatch call times from 30 seconds to more than four minutes.

“I told them: I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. This is too much,” Carter said of leaving in 2016.

The protocol requires dispatchers to ask a series of questions, often more than once, before the information is passed on to police. Questions, Carter said, make a critical situation even worse.

“It caused a lot of stress. Unfortunately that stress got the best of me and I had to take a long-term disability,” Carter said.

“It’s very frustrating that your instincts want to kick in. Your instincts want to ask certain questions before they come up,” Terri Buck said.

Buck spent 30 years working as a dispatcher in Salt Lake County. Like Carter, she said the questions prolonged the calls while also frustrating the caller and the dispatcher.

“In my opinion, it just doesn’t go as smoothly as it used to be. You don’t exactly know what’s going on as a dispatcher because it’s just fractured information,” Buck said.

A dispatcher’s performance is tied to the questions; if they go off-script, they’ll be considered “non-compliant” and could lose their jobs. The women argue 911 police calls should be treated individually.

“There were so many calls where minutes could have been saved if we didn’t have this protocol,” Carter said.