Councilmen talk solutions after a frantic call for help - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: George Metaxas, 9/17/03, 6:04 p.m.

Councilmen talk solutions after a frantic call for help

Precious minutes ticked away as confusion over a 9-1-1 boundary took over during a call for help. Memphis City Council members say it's time for a solution. They say something has to be done to make sure there is no more confusion over addresses or who is supposed to respond to emergency calls. The council says it could happen to one of them, a relative, anyone.

James Wagner collapsed after having a heart attack at the Billiards Club in July. Several calls were made to 911. "I don't care, get an ambulance out here, this dude's fixin to die." Despite numerous, frantic calls to 911, it took a Memphis Fire department truck 30 minutes to show up. Confusion over the address and who had jurisdiction caused the delay. Dispatchers tried to decide if the club was in Memphis or Bartlett. James Wagner died at the hospital.

Jack Sammons, Memphis City Council said, "I think it's morally incumbent upon us to do all we can do to make sure there is not another Jimmy Wagner event in Memphis and Shelby County." E.C. Jones, the head of this Memphis City Council Public Safety Committee, says he's heard the 911 tapes. He and other council members want a system where calls are answered by the closest responder whether it's in their jurisdiction or not. E. C. Jones, Memphis City Council said, "If somebody's calling and the call is right there on the boundary line we need some agreement to Bartlett answer the call if its right across the line."

Memphis Fire Department director, Chester Anderson, told the committee there is already a mutual aid agreement with cities surrounding Memphis that is already in operation. "I think Director Anderson will have a hard time explaining that to the Wagner Family." Sammons says there are obvious problems with the 911 system.

The city council committee says 911 operators may need more training. The council committee wants a task force to look into the situation and come up with a solution. According to the city attorney what exactly happened in the James Wagner case is still under investigation, and attorneys for Wagner's estate are talking with the city about the case.

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