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FF-medics forced open door at wrong address; Ohio city, county to pay up to $25K

The mix-up sparked a debate on best practices for responding to 911 calls when the address is in question


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By Nancy Bowman
Springfield News-Sun

TROY, Ohio — The city of Troy and Miami County will split a bill of up to $25,000 to repair or replace a historic district home’s front door that was forced open by first responders who were at the wrong address for a medical emergency.

The case also led to a local discussion of best practices for responding to 911 calls when the address is in question.

The emergency call to the Miami County Communication Center came shortly after 9 p.m. March 24. The caller was a friend of a woman who she described as not breathing and turning blue.

The woman can be heard on the call first telling the dispatcher help was needed in the 400 block of West Market Street in Troy. When asked to confirm the address, she then said South Market Street.

Following center procedure and national standards, Troy Fire Department medics were sent to a South Market Street residence, where an oak door at an 1890s home was forced open when no one answered, said Jeff Busch, Communication Center director.

The dispatcher walked the caller through CPR and at one point asked if responders had arrived. The error became clear about eight minutes into the call when the caller, again asked about the location, said she didn’t know for sure, but it was the street leading to Kroger ... which would be West Market Street.

Rescue workers were redirected to the correct address a half-mile away, where they took over resuscitation efforts. The woman survived.

The response and a subsequent request by the homeowner for payment for the door led to a special meeting of the Communication Center board May 1. The board is made up of fire, police and emergency medical service professionals, along with city managers.

Members said their goals included making the homeowner whole and checking to see that policies are up to date to reflect technology.

Busch said the computer electronically listed the call correctly as coming from West Market Street. “But the national standards say if you have an electronic version and a person on scene who corrects it, you are supposed to go with the correct location,” he said.

Board members questioned if the policy/standards are in line with technology now available to the center and similar agencies.

“I don’t know about this national standard, but the GPS (Global Positioning System) isn’t going to lie,” said Patrick Titterington, Troy’s service and safety director.

Busch said the first address coming to the center with a call usually is from the cell tower location. If more detail is available from the call, it would be followed by a triangulated location. In the case of this call, the latter information was on West Market Street — not the exact location but in the correct block. The caller also told the dispatcher that the woman was in a car in a driveway, though that information was not provided to the responders, the board was told.

Matt Simmons, Troy fire chief, said crews at times have to force entry into a residence, but it is not frequent. This likely would be in an emergency situation that doesn’t allow for someone to unlock a door or provide access to the patient.

“In this situation, our crews were dispatched to a high-priority medical emergency and prior to our arrival, dispatch advised the patient was not breathing and that CPR was being performed,” he said. “These types of calls are the highest priority, and our crews know that seconds matter when someone is not breathing. The crew that made the decision to force entry believed this action to be the best course of action with the given information and time being of the most importance.”

Once crews were given the correct location, they were able to medically resuscitate the patient, who is now well, Simmons said. He also gave credit to the dispatcher who gave CPR instructions to the caller, who followed them until paramedics arrived.


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