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Calltaker Mistakes Word, Fails To Send Fire Dept.

The Hamilton County (Tenn.) 911 dispatcher who answered Heinz Lange’s 911 call last month misheard a single word, creating an almost 30-minute delay in sending fire units to the man’s home, and ending with the house totally destroyed. Lange awoke to smoke inside the home, but managed to escape through an upper-floor window. He then dialed 911 and told the calltaker, “I think my house is on fire.” However, the calltaker heard the word “heart” and not “house,” and began asking Lange a series of medically-related questions. Upon determining that Lange was medically fit, the calltaker asked, “So you don’t want an ambulance anymore?” When Lange said, “No, no,” the call ended. Lange called back about 25 minutes later and reported the fire to another dispatcher, who immediately sent fire units. Comm center executive director John Stuemer quickly admitted the error, and noted that the word “fire” wasn’t mentioned by either caller after the initial exchange. He added that he’s looking at ways to eliminate a similar mistake in the future. Coincidentally, the original fire flared up overnight, completely destroying the damaged home. Read more and listen to the call here.

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