Fielding Questions from 911 Dispatchers; When is Help on the Way?

WINFIELD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When you call 911, it's likely one of the most difficult moments in your life.

Dispatchers say they know that.

They say what you don't know is what you might not hear. They are able to start sending you help through their computer system, but they will continue to ask you questions.

"They just can't understand the process of why we are asking the questions," said Jason Owens, deputy director of Putnam County 911. "They want the help here now, and we already have someone started on the way."

The man who helped rescue kidnapping victim Amanda Berry was critical of his call to 911, calling the dispatchers "morons" in an interview with broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper.

That man was frustrated they didn't stay on the phone with the woman who told dispatchers she had been kidnapped, missing for 10 years. In the recording, you can hear the dispatchers tell her to let police know when they arrive on the scene.

Owens and Putnam County 911 Director Frank Chapman say their policy is to stay on the phone with the person when the situation warrants extra attention.

Once a unit is dispatched to the scene of an emergency, the dispatcher will stay on the phone and ask questions that in the heat of the moment might not seem relevant.

Like what a suspect had on, what the person who needs help is wearing, or even someone's eye or hair color.

"My guys and girls in here are trained to ask every question they can and don't take what they see on the screen for granted," Chapman said.

"We are just trying to figure out what is going on to paint a picture better for the people that are responding," Owens said.

"That information can be used in various ways," Chapman explained. "It may be something that happened earlier, it could be something that solves a crime or a murder, or in this case a missing person. "

New state laws will go into effect July 1 that will provide more consistency for questions asked by 911 dispatchers in West Virginia. In some cases, it could mean more questions. Chapman reassures the public help is on the way as the questions are being asked.

"We are in the process of getting all of our employees trained and get it implemented," he said.

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