Wharton calls 911 delayed response "human error, human failure"

Every day emergency crews save lives on the streets of Memphis and Shelby County. So when dispatchers can be heard arguing over areas they cover, they bring up critical annexation issues, and point out weaknesses in the current 911 system.

Bartlett: Billiards club?

Memphis: Yeah, 2686 Kirby Whitten.

Bartlett: I don't think that's ours.

Memphis: Kirby Whitten's not yours?

Bartlett: Not below 2735. I don't think. Once it goes south.

Memphis: Oh my God, this is ridiculous.

Bartlett and Memphis dispatchers arguing over who should respond to newly annexed areas, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton doesn't mince words. "It wasn't necessarily a failure of technology, it appears to have been human error, human failure." Wharton says right now, the city and county's 911 systems are too spread out. Why doesn't it go to a city, because they're not in a city." Right now, if someone makes a 911 call in the city, it goes to Memphis dispatch, In other parts of the county, including rural areas, it goes to Shelby County's 911 center, make a call in Bartlett and Germantown, and that's who will answer. The problem: too many dispatchers in different locations, Wharton says combining resources is one way to fix it, "one unified system."

Memphis: It's right on the borderline. We don't normally handle those.

911 caller: It doesn't matter. Somebody please, this guy's fixin' to die."

Already in the works, one central 911 center that will house both city and county 911 dispatchers. That new county and city 911 center will cost 94 million dollars. It won't be completed until the year 2007. Until then, Wharton says dispatchers will receive more training on newly annexed areas.