911 Dispatcher Fired for Sending Emergency Crews to Wrong Address

The 81-year-old man called in complaining of chest pains, but he didn't receive help until 47 minutes later because crews were sent to the wrong address

A 911 dispatcher has been fired after she accidentally sent first responders to the wrong address this week when a man called in complaining of chest pains. 

Lake County 911 said Thursday it has "concluded the employment" of Natalia Deluna-Avila and is retesting all dispatchers following the incident. 

Kenneth Booker, 81, called 911 Monday night complaining of chest pain. Officials say he gave Lake County, Indiana, dispatch his address on the 800 block of North Lillian in Griffith, but the dispatcher entered a "3" instead of an "8", sending emergency crews five blocks away from his home.

Booker called back twice, but by the time paramedics finally found him, 47 minutes later, he was unresponsive. Booker later died. 

“I think the dispatcher failed this man,” said Brian Hitchcock, executive director of Lake County 911. "It's not the system, but of course we are an entity and I'm the director of this organization and we have to find resolve to this. That's what we're attempting to do right now."

Hitchcock said the dispatcher, who is a 9-year veteran who came into the newly consolidated center in January, has been reprimanded once in the past for customer service issues. She was placed on unpaid leave after the incident.

NBC Chicago went to her home to request comment, but nobody answered the door and lights at the home were shut off.

"The duties of the position of a 911 dispatcher must be carried out flawlessly and without fail," Hitchcock said in a statement Thursday. "In short, the staff of Lake County 911 must maintain a level of 100 percent accuracy at all times without fail."

"The most frustrating part, I was a trained dispatcher myself," Hitchcock told NBC Chicago. "When you're trained dispatcher, you have to listen carefully. You don't talk all the time. You listen to all the caller has to say. It's pretty evident that caller kept getting cut off by the dispatcher."

Lake County 911 became fully operational just a few weeks ago, now overseeing emergency dispatch calls for 15 towns and cities, but this is not the first time dispatch made such a mistake since the system first went online.

In June, Gary Transit Officer Burt Sanders was found dead inside a church after having called 911 for help.

Paramedics left when they found the church doors locked, but officials said the dispatcher was at fault for not relaying how dire the situation was. That dispatcher was later fired.

"Dispatchers are human, just like you and I, and we do make mistakes, but mistakes like this can cost lives so we have to be careful," Hitchcock said. “We’re very concerned with calls like this.”

Hitchcock said Thursday that measures are underway to retest all dispatchers and all personnel recently completed a customer service training. 

"The public can be assured that Lake County 911 and its staff regrets the consequences that occurred on October 26, 2015, and that we resolve to do everything possible to avoid a repeat mistake from occurring," the statement read.

Hitchcock said the latest case was an isolated incident, but Griffith police want their own investigation.

"Unfortunately, it was too late to do anything in this instance, but [the investigation] is to see that we can prevent it from happening again in the future," Cmdr. Keith Martin said. 

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