Lunaya Pravda

08 April 2006

What was that about 911 reliability?

911 Operater Tells Boy Not to Play With Phone as His Mother Dies

The Detroit Police Department promised a thorough investigation Friday after coming under intense scrutiny both locally and across the nation for an incident in which a woman died after her 5-year-old son's calls to 911 were dismissed as a prank.

Robert Turner, now 6, called 911 twice after his mother collapsed Feb. 20 in her bedroom on Detroit's west side. A recording of the calls, which family members gave the Free Press on Friday, revealed that the boy's pleas for help weren't taken seriously.

Having listened to the calls, once the kid said "my mom passed out" that should have been enough to take the calls seriously. Instead, the operator(s) were almost immediately confrontational, demanding to talk to either an adult or the kid's mom, and then threatening to report him to the police for making prank calls.

I realize 911 operators handle plenty of time-wasting calls, but had either operator (and it may have been the same operator on both calls) attempted to elicit more information from the boy, perhaps he would have provided a more coherent plea for help.

Teaching her son to call 911 wasn't wrong - in fact, it's much more problem-solving than some parents teach - but this just reinforces my beliefs on the importance of knowing your neighbors, and making sure your kids know at least one trusted neighbor or family member they can call upon in an emergency. It certainly appears that this boy didn't what else to do when 911 failed him, that he thought after he dialed 911, everything else would fall into place. And none of that is his fault.

Keep emergency numbers written near the phone. Make sure your children know their full names, address, and phone number for use in an emergency, and be sure to discuss with them the times it's appropriate to share that information with a stranger. The simplicity in remembering "911" isn't sufficient; kids can be taught more than that.

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