Fred Langley passed away June 28 from diabetic shock. His wife, Reba, called 911 at 2:30 p.m. that day, telling emergency dispatchers to send responders to their house on Kathy Lane in Temple. Instead, responders arrived first on Kathy Lane in Carrollton — a street about nine miles away — before realizing the mistake.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Chappell said the mix-up was “pure human error.”
“I visit the 911 center frequently, and these people are under a lot of pressure in some very difficult jobs,” he said. “But there is no room for errors like this one. Termination of this dispatcher was no choice.”
Carroll County Attorney Cynthia Daley said the dispatcher blamed for the error had been on the job for 19 years, and that she had been terminated. Her termination was not final until recently, when the period for her appeal rights had expired.
Daley said the current dispatchers are undergoing more training now.
District 3 Commissioner Ashley Hendrix said she believes the system caused the mix-up, instead of the dispatcher.
“I stand my ground,” she said. “I voted against it because I did research on it.”
Hendrix said she contacted Coweta County E-911, which had the computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system, when the vote was coming up.
“They got ride of their system,” she said. “At the time I talked with them, Carroll County took more calls than Coweta. And Coweta got rid of the system because of errors and dropped calls.”
Hendrix said she plans to invite her fellow commissioners to look at the system again.
“I was concerned about it then, and now I’m definitely concerned about it,” she said. “I think the Board of Commissioners needs to revisit this system.”
Chappell disagrees with Hendrix, saying she did not know all the facts before speaking.
“Commissioner Hendrix spoke without knowledge or facts, and she has created severe problems for the county government,” Chappell said.
Daley, E-911 Trisha Orr and shift supervisor DJ Perkins said the dispatcher did not ask the right questions of Langley during the call.
In all dispatchers’ employee manuals, Orr said, there is a list of questions to ask of callers. Orr said it has always been a part of dispatchers’ training and standard operating procedures for the call center.
First, dispatchers are trained to ask for the address of where the emergency is.
The second question that should have been asked was not asked during Langley’s call, and that is where the error occurred, Orr said. The dispatcher is supposed to ask for or verify a cross street, a road that is near to the emergency address. For instance, the cross street for Kathy Lane in Temple is Bar J Road. In Carrollton, it’s Ho Lynn Trail.
Perkins, the shift supervisor on June 28, said the dispatcher should have asked immediately what road Kathy Lane is “off of.”
“She confirmed the address,” he said. “And then, automatically, the next question is, ‘What’s that run off of?’ If the system automatically gives you a cross street, then you still verify it.”
Perkins conducted a reenactment of the call Thursday. When he input Kathy Lane into the software system, a drop-down menu appeared with two options: one for Temple, the other for Carrollton. Once inputting the Temple street name, Bar J Road came up in the “cross street” field.
In the call recording, Langley says she needed an ambulance to 60 Kathy Lane, Temple, Ga.
When asked by the dispatcher which house is hers, Langley said, “It’s the one with all the cars and trucks in it.”
The dispatcher told Langley that responders were on the way.
The operator then sent responders to “60 Kathy Lane” off “Ho Lynn Trail.”
Once there, responders asked dispatch if the caller meant Kathy Circle, seeing that there was no 60 Kathy Lane in Carrollton.
“Stand by, let me check,” the operator said. “They advised a 60 Kathy Lane.”
Once realizing the mistake, the operator canceled the Carrollton responders and asked for Temple Fire Department.
“You can cancel, I apologize,” she said. “This one is going to be the one in Temple. 42, will you be in route to 60 Kathy Lane.”
Temple responders told the operator they were already en route, and the operator apologized again.
Ten minutes after her first call, Reba called back and spoke to a different operator, who asked what road Kathy Lane is off of.
“Is it off Bar J Road?” the dispatcher asked, to which Langley said, “Yes.”
Langley said during the call that “it didn’t take them this long before,” referring to previous calls she’d made for her husband.
The deceased man’s family found out about the error Wednesday morning after reading the Times-Georgian.
“I think it was very wrong for the county not to tell us that someone else might be responsible,” said Reba Langley. “To have to find out about it through the newspaper was terrible.”
Daley said she is “very apologetic” that the family found out through the media, but that it was necessary to complete the investigation first.
“We had to do an internal investigation first, and we needed to allow some grieving time for the family,” she said.
Langley had a history of diabetes and bypass surgery, and during the 911 call, his wife stated that she has had to call emergency responders twice before.
E-911 Director Trisha Orr said Langley had called 911 in February, and it had taken 12 minutes for responders to arrive. On June 28, responders arrive 19 minutes after the first call.
Orr said Carroll County’s dispatchers are post certified, as well as certified in emergency medical dispatching (EMD), which trains them on which questions to ask for each emergency and instructions to give before responders arrive.
“This exceeds the state standard for certification,” Orr said. “The state does not require EMD certification.”
Commissioners voted to approve the purchase of the system in June 2010, after first hearing from Orr in October 2009. The system was purchased for almost $150,000.
“The computer system does not dispatch,” Chappell said. “People dispatch. The CAD system is very effective and much more accurate than what we had. The mapping is updated and accurate. I am very proud of this operation.”
Orr agrees, saying the dispatch aspect of the system is not nearly as important as the mapping the CAD system provides.
“The mapping is the most important part,” she said. “The mapping gives us everything. No computer knows what you’re thinking.”