Opinion

Cell-phone call leads to confusion, delay | Letters | Oct. 16

Recently two members of my cycling group went down while riding near Fay Bainbridge State Park. One was up immediately but the other was seriously injured with several major fractures.

A 17-minute delay in the arrival of emergency responders to my 911 call brings into focus not only the quirks of mobile phone service but also the necessity to support the upcoming EMS levy proposed for Bainbridge Island.

In strong defense of the Bainbridge responders, they were on the way within 50 seconds of receipt of the dispatching call. They arrived on scene with a fully staffed aid car and were quickly joined by the duty fire chief and two patrol officers. Their actions, quick and appropriate, had the victim on the road to the hospital in minutes.

The primary delay arose from the route my cell call took. Cell-initiated 911 calls do not always go to the closest dispatcher.

Neither do they provide the site-specific location common to land lines. In this case, an East Sound station nearly 18 miles from the island answered my call.

That dispatcher, instead of transferring me to Kitsap County, transferred me to Tacoma.

Tacoma, in spite of my telling them where I was, tried to locate me in Puyallup. When finally transferred to Kitsap County, my line went dead. It was not until I moved 10 feet to the west and redialed 911 that I connected with the proper dispatcher. By that time, nine minutes had elapsed. Notwithstanding these major errors committed by two paid professional dispatchers, I am not yet certain as to what part my input contributed to this miscommunication.

Seven minutes of the additional delay arose in the transit time between the Madison Avenue fire station and the north end of Sunrise Drive. Had this not been early Sunday morning with its low traffic volume, the delay could have been greater. Had this been a cardiac emergency, or one with significant bleeding, the outcome could have been tragic.

Presently, the only staffed station is Madison Avenue. Had the Phelps Road station been staffed, at least three minutes might have been trimmed from the response time.

The lessons:

If reporting an emergency on your cell phone, be explicit about your geographic location, then give your address.

Support the upcoming EMS levy to fund emergency staffing at all fire stations so both north and south end response times will be improved.

Meanwhile, when scheduling your next emergency, try to do so mid-island, near a landline.

David and Marie Spooner

Valley Road

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