Saturday, April 25, 2009
Monday, April 20 2009
Legislators in Oklahoma took steps in opposite directions within four days, voting to cut the statewide 911 surcharge by 70% one day, and then forming a legislative task force to study how upgrade the state's 911 system. Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) proposed an amendment to an existing bill that would cut the surcharge from 50¢ to 15¢, as part of an overall reduction in state taxes. The amendment passed 75-21 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. Reynolds said the proposed fee reduction has nothing to do with 911 services, but rather the public's recent request for reduced taxes. He pointed to the recent "tea party" protests, saying, "Tax payers want to see their money is used appropriately or they want it back. They want it back and this was a great example to do that." Just four days earlier, the legislature named members to a group that will study "possible changes needed…as technology continuously evolves." The 10-member task force will examine rural 911 availability and the increasing use of cellular phones to make 911 calls. Download (pdf) the Reynolds amendment here.
See link here: http://www.911dispatch.com/db/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2485&Itemid=1#comments
What?????????????? Oklahomans will be saving 35 cents a month. Let's see that's $4.20 a year! Oh my God! And they are going to take away much needed 9-1-1 funding? How stupid is that?
I like this:
"Reynolds said the proposed fee reduction has nothing to do with 911 services"
Just incredible. Mark has been writing Oklahoman senators and legislators all day. This has him really fired up.
This is what he wrote to Rep Reynolds:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 9-1-1 Surcharge
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 2009 09:53:03 -0700
From: Mark Lee <email@example.com>
Dear Rep. Reynolds,
I just read an article on your amendment to Oklahoma SB1166 to lower thetelephone fee paid for 9-1-1 services from .50/mo. to .15/mo. Our familyhas started a foundation to raise awareness of 9-1-1 issues, promote solutions, and aid victims of 9-1-1 tragedies. Our daughter in law was kidnapped, raped, and murdered as a result of a 9-1-1 breakdown. You can read about the details on our website but to assume that the citizens ofOklahoma would rather have .35 more in their pocket every month in the name of lowering taxes, when the 9-1-1 industry is facing a monumental challengeof accepting the new technologies of calling for help, is absurd! A rapist and murderer took the mother of our 2 little grandsons and the loving wife of our son, because of the lack of training and procedures in our 9-1-1center. Even though a cell phone call of 9 minutes was made by a local bystander witnessing the abduction and describing the exact location of the crime, no one was ever dispatched to save her life. The public is unaware that the 9-1-1 industry does not have the technology to locate a cell phone placing a call. They are unaware that they cannot text a call to a 9-1-1 center and they are unaware that using their Vonage phone to call 9-1-1 is practically useless for identifying who they are and where they are located. People are going to continue to die and families are going to continue to be torn apart by the inability of compassionate, forward thinking legislators to promote legislation to properly fund this first line of Homeland Security to meet the immediate demands of Next Generation technologies. Our tragedy has been the subject of Dateline NBC and ABC20/20 episodes. We are now teaming with the Public Safety industry to speak at state and national conventions and are working with federal lawmakers on legislation. Let's hope your state isn't the subject of one of these national broadcasts because of a 9-1-1 breakdown contributing to a horrible tragedy. I am sure the citizens of Oklahoma will feel much better though watching it with that extra .35 in their pockets. Do what is right!
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation
You go, honey! You tell him!!!
Mark wrote to other senators of Oklahoma as well. He's been on this all day. He did hear from one who wholeheartedly agreed with him. What I can't believe is that 75 Oklahoma state representatives voted for this. Just unbelievable.
I certainly hope it doesn't take a tragedy in Oklahoma and a PrimeTime episode about his state for Rep Reynolds to wake up and do what's right for public safety.
Looks like maybe Nate and Mark need to make a Oklahoma road trip. Nate's been invited to Wisconsin in October for the Wisconsin NENA to speak. We're hoping he can do it.
Somebody has to open people's eyes!
In other news:
I stopped by the road sign today. I blogged about it the other day. I placed pretty blue silk flowers (Denise's favorite color) on it along with some silk pink roses. She'd loved those too. The blue flowers reminded me of Virginia bluebells. She would've loved those. I doubt she ever got to see one. In any case! It did the trick and looks much better:o)
I didn't cry so I must be healing. But! I did decide to take I-75 home to Englewood. And I got off the wrong exit, had to make a U-turn yadayadayadayada. So I was shaken but I wasn't a wreck. I really just wanted to get that done before we left for the convention.
I feel much better.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
My opinion first; article to follow.
David Iredale was a young teenager from Sydney, Australia who lost his life after calling 0-0-0 (9-1-1 in Australia).
This is so tragic. There are technologies available that could have found this young man. We're just not using them.
We need to use the techonologies. IMO, 9-1-1 should be evolving right along side consumer communications technology.
This is just too tragic for words. And I'm sure this has probably happened here in the states. We just don't hear about it. This boy could have been saved if not by the dispatchers then by technology. It's not that expensive, folks. If we all just paid $2 a month more on our cell phone bills, and the federal government insured it was going to GPS systems in all cell phones, that would be the cheapest life insurance you could buy. Only $24 dollars a year to be sure your cell phone could track you. I think that's worth it. It would've helped save this young man, it would have helped save Denise, Jennifer Johnson and Olidia Kerr Day. $24 dollars a year and make it mandatory the phone companies do it.
Thank you, Tracie from Down Under for sharing this story with me. It breaks my heart. I can't imagine how this young man suffered. I'm sure it happens more often than we know in boats, in mountains, in snowstorms, etc... God bless his family with as much peace and comfort as they can handle. If they wish to get in touch with us, we'll be glad to share with them what we're doing in this country. Maybe they can tell us what they are doing. You know my email address.
Placed five calls within half-hour
Operator: "I could have done better"
See story: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25373564-5006784,00.html April 23, 2009
Article from: NEWS.com.au
Fatal bushwalk ... teenager David Iredale died in the NSW Blue Mountains despite making several 000 calls.
THE harrowing final words of Sydney teenager David Iredale - recorded as he lay dehydrated, desperate and close to death - have been revealed in full for the first time.
Transcripts of the lost bushwalker's repeated pleas for help to three triple-0 operators were released as those same women admitted a string of critical blunders at the inquest into his death.
David, 17, died when he became separated from his two friends on a hike in the Blue Mountains in December 2006.
He and his friends ran out of water just a day into their three-day hike, and David became lost after leaving them to find the Kedumba River.
In the hours that followed, he made repeated desperate phone calls to 000 operators, who insisted that he give them a street address to which they could send an ambulance.
David's body was found eight days later.
This is a transcript of the 000 calls David made while lost.
Duration: 1 min, 41 sec
LM: Ambulance emergency. What suburb please?
DI: Hi, this is an emergency
(Operator cuts over David)
LM: What suburb?
LM: What was the address in Katoomba?
DI: Um, I have been walking the Mt Solitary
(Operator cuts over David)
LM: What's the address in Katoomba?
DI: Yep, I have been walking the Mt Solitary track and I am near the Kedumba River and yeah, that's all I know
LM: It's Mt Solitary is it?
LM: Do you know where you are?
DI: No ... I can't walk far at all
LM: Oh. What was the street you started out walking from?
DI: No idea
LM: OK. So you've just wandered into the middle of nowhere, is that what you're saying?
DI: I don't have a map
LM: You need to tell me where to send the ambulance
LM: Listen. Listen. Listen. The Mt Solitary walking track may not be on a map. You need to tell me what the nearest street you know that you've gone past is
DI: Look, I'm about to faint
LM: OK darling, you need to tell me where you are, so we know where to send the ambulance
(Call drops out)
Duration: 10 seconds
DI: This is an emergency, emergency (yelling)
SD: What's the address?
(Call drops out)
Duration: 40 seconds
LM: Ambulance emergency. What suburb please?
DI: I'm lost, I need water, I haven't had water for a long period of time (yelling)
(Operator cuts over)
LM: Sir, do you need an ambulance there?
LM: Then what suburb are you in?
DI: I'm in Katoomba
(Operator cuts over)
LM: Where in Katoomba are you Sir?
DI: I'm not in Katoomba actually. The Mt Solitary walk. I'm going down to the Kedumba River on that walk
(Ms Meade keeps asking for a street. Line eventually drops out)
Duration: 5 min, 1 sec
RW: Ambulance emergency. What suburb please?
DI: I need an ambulance
RW: Where are you sir?
DI: I set out from a hike at Katoomba and went to Mt Solitary hike
RW: OK, you're at Katoomba?
RW: OK, whereabouts in Katoomba are you?
DI: I'm not in Katoomba, I've walked from Katoomba
RW: OK, so where are you then?
DI: I went to the Mt Solitary, Mt Solitary walking track and I'm going to the Kedumba River (yelling)
RW: OK, so you're on the Mt, Mt, um, Solitary track
RW: Are you going to where?
DI: I'm on the slope going down to the Mt, to the sorry, sorry cancel. I'm on the slope going down to the Kedumba River (yelling)
RW: Kedumba River?
RW: OK, Ked, Kedumba River. You're on the track, on a road track are you sir?
DI: No, it's bush bash, I may not exactly be on the track (yelling)
RW: OK so you're not exactly on the track. So you're in a car then are you?
DI: No, it's bush, trees everywhere. Lying down. Fainted (yelling)
RW: You're lying down and you fainted?
RW: OK, so when you left where did you start at? (David describes having walked for two days)
DI: I went on the Federal pass walking track
RW: You started on the Federal path walking track?
RW: Federal path or pass?
DI: Pass, as in the pass the lemonade or something
RW: Oh, Federal P A S S
RW: Alright, we're trying to find out sir. We're just trying to find out where we can find you
DI: Wait, sorry, wait. There are two other people where, I don't where they are
RW: OK, so you can see two other people can you?
DI: No I can't see them, I can't hear them, but they are there
RW: OK, now if you can't see them or hear them but you know that they're there how do you know they're there?
DI: Because they were with me
RW: They left you did they?
DI: We got separated, I don't know how
RW: OK. You got separated. Sir, there's actually no need to yell, alright? Can you calm down, we are trying to find you. So what happened, sir?
DI: I just fainted
RW: You fainted and they left you there?
DI: They didn't, I fainted where I couldn't see them
RW: OK, you fainted where they couldn't see you and they just left you there. They didn't try looking for you?
(Ms Waters asks David questions about what direction he was facing)
DI: I don't know, I can't see properly
(The call goes on for several more minutes, David is heard heavy breathing, but continues to try to describe his location near the Kedumba River. The call cuts out)
Duration: 3 min, 58 sec
SD: You're through to the ambulance
SD: Do you want an ambulance?
SD: To what address?
DI: Actually, it's probably, it's in the bush
DI: Katoomba. I called there about an hour, 45 minutes ago and then I fainted (inaudible). I am near the Kedumba river. I was going down to it on the Mt Solitary track
SD: Just hang on for a minute
(On hold for 28 seconds. Ms Dickens returns and again asks him where he is before telling David to hang on again and then places him on hold for another 24 seconds)
SD: Now what street are we coming in off?
DI: Hello? Hello?
SD: What street are we coming in off?
SD: Tell me where you are?
SD: Don't keep saying that, tell me where you are
DI: (Heavy breathing) I'm facing the Kedumba River. I came through, oh, the mountain in the middle of the valley that the Three Sisters are on
SD: And what track was that? Tell me where you are
SD: What track is it?
DI: I can't remember. Oh, I don't have a map (groans and heavy breathing). I've been out here for an hour
SD: (Pauses for seven seconds)
SD: I need to know exactly where you are
(Call goes on like this for several minutes before David is heard breathing heavily and then the line cuts out)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Next week members of the foundation (including moi) are going to Las Vegas for the NAED (National Academies of Emergency Dispatch) conference. I have mixed emotions about it. I believe I should be excited about going to Las Vegas. Who doesn't get excited about Vegas? Well.... I'm not all that excited. I take that back. I am and I'm not. I am excited because it will give me an opportunity to meet 9-1-1 industry people. When Mark and Nate came home from San Diego they said it was the most incredible experience (other than getting married and having children) they ever had. That the encouragement and the support for our cause and for them was phenomenal. They said the people were just wonderful. It made them feel good. I so want to feel good. Suddenly all we are doing was making sense and we felt we were being heard. So, there are many people think it would be good for me to meet some of these same people and experience the same positive energy. More importantly I'm to man the booth. Which I'm good at and have lots of experience doing.
I'm not looking forward to it because I don't want to be that person people feel sorry for. I'm afraid that I might break down and share my grief too much. I'm afraid of telling Denise's story over and over again. I'm sure I can. I'm sure I just have the jitters but as I've said before, it's not easy getting out there and putting your pain on display.
I'm worried about parties etc.... I don't want to go to parties. Yes, I want to meet people and network to promote our cause. Yes, I want to laugh. I like to laugh. Yes, I want to go to dinner. But I don't think I can actually party. We'll see.
Aside to Kevin: If you're reading this, dinner is on! You've been so incredibly supportive.
I'm just sharing my thoughts. I'm not sure how I feel.
But I think it's an important trip and the right thing to do. I'm primarily going to work the booth at the convention. I've been working boothes at conventions and home shows for years. I'm good at it. I know Denise's story and 9-1-1 debacle in her case inside and out. I feel very comfortable about doing it. It'll be nice discussing it with people who actually know what I'm talking about. It'll be wonderful to hear their thoughts as to what can be done, what we should do, and where we should go from here.
But I know it's going to take a lot of emotional energy.
Today wasn't a good day for me. We're shipping a lot of stuff out to the conference center before we go. We have a very large picture of Denise. It's this picture about 35" W x 25" H
The picture is almost life size. As I was driving, I had the picture in the front seat and I couldn't help touching her face. It brought back memories of when we used to go places with the kids (doctors etc...). It was hard driving and holding back tears.
Then I stopped at one of the foundation member's workplaces to ship the stuff. The foundation member (a true angel in blue) works less than a 1/4 mile from where Denise's body was found. At the entrance to the street where Denise's body was found the road is closed but there's teddy bears, flowers, ribbons etc.... on one of the road signs.
Above is a picture from the newspaper early in 2008. I had to drive by it twice today to get Tammy's workplace. Since this picture was taken many more bears have been added and many many more flowers. It was hard for me to see. I don't go near that area unless I absolutely have toand today I had to. I avoid it like the plague. Anyhow, seeing it was almost unbearable. Why? Because it was dirty and dingy. The bears were filthy with highway grit and dust (it's very close to I-75). I thought, oh my! So I went to the local dollar store to get some silk flowers (the closest Michael's is a half hour away) but they were closed due to the economy. That's what their sign said. So I went to the Publix. They didn't have any silk flowers. And there I was in a quandary and almost breaking into tears as to what to do. It seemed silly, a woman in the middle of a grocery store getting ready to cry. I know this sounds pathetic but the feelings were very genuine. What do you do? So, I bought some real daisies and drove back to the sign. I cleaned away as much debris as I could and all the dead flowers. I was in tears. I had to fight the "compulsion" to get a sponge and start cleaning the bears and faded ribbons. I wanted to brighten it up and make it cheery. The bears up close didn't look as bad as they do far away. You could see they had been placed there with love.
I don't know whether we should take it all down or leave it up. I think it should stay. But it has to be kept nice! By the time I left it, I was a wreck. When I get back from the conference I plan on going back with very bright silk flowers. I can't clean the bears but I can spruce them up some.
Anyhow, I cried all the way home (half an hour drive). I felt people were looking at me. There I was in the car with Denise's lifesize picture sitting next to me. I could've turned the picture over so I wouldn't have to see it. That would've kept me from reaching out to her. But that not right!!! It's all still that painful. Then I have the bumper sticker so I felt I was being stared at. I know there are people out there who thinking we should just "get over it".
So many people want me to read "The Shack" by William P Young. It's a Christian book about a man's whose daughter was abducted and brutally murdered in a shack. Four years later he receives a note supposedly from God that tells him to visit the shack. Sorry but I can't read that! I don't want to read about someone being abducted and brutally murdered. I don't care if they do find God in the end. (I haven't lost God. I'm just mad at him.)
Besides, I'm sorry but I think it's going to take longer than 4 years to get over this!
The good thing about the book is that it helps people better understand what we're going through as far as grief and anger. It doesn't help them necessarily understand our relationships (or at least my relationship) with God. That's a personal journey and everyone's is different.
Our foundation isn't going to stop people from being murdered. The murderer killed Denise. He's evil. But if we don't do all we can to help prevent further mishaps in 9-1-1 centers which will help prevent other families from suffering the way we and other families such as the Perez's and the Johnson's and the Cantrell's and the Zimmerman's and the Koon's etc...etc...etc... I just think we'd be doing a great wrong.
Sorry to go on.
Yesterday was even more emotional. Sue was in an accident with the babies. All are fine. It wasn't Sue's fault. Some maniac pulled out in front of her and could've killed the boys. We were all shaken up. Just the thought of losing the boys was terrifying. And I mean terrifying. Poor poor Sue. I can't imagine what she felt. Thank God, she was smart. She saved the boys lives. And Denise and whoever up above were watching out for them. I know the other families know what I mean. I mean it was terrifying thinking we could've lost those boys.
Oddly, Sue tried to call 9-1-1 from her cell phone but the call seemed to keep dropping. (We're pretty close to the water). They had to go in and call from a local business. She doesn't know why her call wouldn't go through.
Again, sorry to go on.
Much love and peace. We're all fine.
I've printed this in both blogs because I don't know if it's about grief or 9-1-1. I'm that muddled.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Are you confident that your 911 dispatchers are providing you with all available and pertinent information on your calls?
Yes: 20.6 %
No: 79.4 %
Link here: http://www.policemag.com/WebPolls/Web-Poll.aspx
I don't even know what to say. I'm without words and saddened.
Obviously, Denise's tragedy isn't isolated especially in Florida. Olidia Kerr Day and Jennifer Johnson here in Florida. Matthew Cantrell in Texas. Brittany Zimmerman........
The three policemen killed in Allegheny County equally tragic if not more so.
All saints and martyrs for a cause. The cause being to fix 9-1-1 nation wide. Let's give these call takers and dispatchers the technology they need and let's certify them. And let's weed out the ones that will not step up and use the technologies that are available to them. Not to mention the ones who have lost their compassion. We've all heard those stories. I can't help but think of Matthew Cantrell. If you haven't read his story, he's the little one year old I blogged about here:
It's a high stress job and we need our front lines to be top notch people with not only compassion but integrity.
In my opinion, there are outstanding 9-1-1 centers and then not-so-good 9-1-1 centers. I imagine that 20% that answered yes are working in states that have standards set. I imagine they have quality assurance programs and are using the best technologies available and affordable.
This poll is a prime example of why we need a set of national standards.
I've never been one to be for more laws. At one time I was a registered Libertarian. But in this case? Geesh. We have to do something.
I posted yesterday what happened in our area on Friday. They got it right. They say they did. But only after Denise lost her life do they have the radios finally communicating properly between the Sarasota and Charlotte County.
I hate to see others have to lose their lives so that patching radios isn't a problem.
We still don't know if the 9-1-1 call taker who handled Jane Kowalski's call is using her CAD system properly. Is she still writing things down first? So she has 15 years experience! What good is all that experience if she's not following procedure and using the latest technology available to her.
It's just wrong. We have to get this right. And it has to be nation wide.
Just my opinion.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Anyhow, thank goodness they got it right. Not to be bitter or cynical but I can't help wonder which 9-1-1 "squad" they had on in the CCSO 9-1-1 call center.
Child abduction scare unfounded
GULF COVE -- A report of an apparent child abduction set off a massive search Friday, tying up police for more than four hours before finally fizzling out in North Port.
Police responded rapidly and in force when a woman called the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office at 10:05 a.m. and reported seeing a man in a red pickup who appeared to be tying up a girl on Gillot Boulevard in Gulf Cove off State Road 776.
The truck had pool cleaning supplies in the back and the girl appeared to be between 6 to 12 years old, the caller told dispatchers.
The woman was unable to make the call until she got to work, however, which cost police 20 minutes of search time, according Bob Carpenter, a spokesman for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
"The woman was questioned and seemed very credible," Carpenter said while the search for the red pickup was under way. "Even if she isn't telling the truth, we've got to act as if it did happen."
Detectives, K-9 unit, Major Crimes Unit officers, a members of both the narcotics units and warrant squads were deployed in Charlotte County with assistance from Sarasota and Lee County Sheriff's offices and North Port Police.
They searched the area for a dark red Nissan Frontier pickup.
Police canvassed the neighborhood, took calls on tips and initiated reverse 9-1-1 in the target area, setting up a command center with maps and a bus.
School resource officers checked out both unexcused and female absences.
Pool maintenance companies were called.
Some red pickup were pulled over and their drivers questioned.
"If it was kind of red, they may have been checked out," Carpenter said.
The report turned out to be unfounded.
More than four hours after the call came in, North Port police responded to a home where they found a father and his 17 year-old daughter, who work together in a pool cleaning business.
Both were surprised when police arrived at the home on Price Boulevard. They told police they had been in Gulf Cove Friday morning and that nothing happened in the pickup, according the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
Everything checked out and there was no crime, police said.
"Everybody who's anybody was in on this," Carpenter said, describing the response to the initial call.
Later, in a prepared statement, the Sheriff's Office described the search as a seamless operation that stretched across a variety of law enforcement agencies and communications media.
"Even though the report turned out to be unfounded, the overall teamwork was impeccable," Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron said in the statement.
By DANA SANCHEZ
Assistant Englewood Editor
Report of child taking is mistake
By Kim Hackett
Published: Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 at 11:36 p.m.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - In what turned out to be a false alarm, Charlotte County sheriff's deputies mobilized five police agencies on land, air and water Friday to search for a man thought to have abducted a child.
The large manhunt came after a woman reported what she thought was a child abduction in the Gulf Cove area at about 10:30 a.m.
She described a man in a red pickup with pool supplies in the back struggling with a girl between 6 and 12 years old.
"We had no reason to doubt her," Charlotte County sheriff's spokesman Bob Carpenter said. The woman did not have a cell phone and drove 20 minutes to work to call police.
Sheriff's deputies set a staging area in a grocery store parking lot at State Road 776 and County Road 771. Detectives and dog, marine and aviation units began searching the area and running down leads.
No one had reported a missing child, so deputies checked schools and sent a reverse 911 call to homes in the area.
Police from Lee and Sarasota counties assisted along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Three hours later, North Port police showed up at the Price Boulevard home of Leonard Haslage, who operates a window and pool cleaning business with his 17-year-old daughter and who drives a red Nissan pickup.
Haslage's daughter answered the door and was surprised to see police.
"We felt pretty comfortable we were on the right track," said North Port Police Sgt. Charles Ayres, who drove to the Haslage house with another officer.
He said the daughter "looks young for her age" and Leonard Haslage "matched the description to a T."
Charlotte County deputies arrived with the witness a few minutes later, and she identified Haslage as the man she had seen.
Haslage and his daughter said they had been in the Englewood area but they had not done anything that could be interpreted as a struggle, Carpenter said.
The caller "did absolutely the right thing" by contacting police, he said.
Carpenter said he did not think police overreacted.
"We have to assume she was right," Carpenter said.
A release on the incident said that the agencies communicated "via radio seamlessly through shared radio channels and patching capabilities."
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office came under fire for its handling of 911 calls in the January 2008 abduction and murder of Denise Lee. She was the daughter of a Charlotte County sheriff's sergeant, and her disappearance touched off an expansive search by multiple agencies that ultimately failed to save her. Communications mistakes made on the night of her killing have spawned a broader movement to change the way emergency calls are handled in Florida and across the nation.
Monday, April 13, 2009
This week is Public Safety Telecommunications Week, so, be sure to thank your local 9-1-1 dispatchers and call takers! Obviously don't call 9-1-1 and thank them. Use the non-emergency number:o) And if they are congenial feel free to ask them to send a recipe!!!! PeggyLee@DeniseAmberLee.org
And special thanks to call takers and dispatchers everywhere who do their best and utmost to help save lives. God bless you.
Call for Life
As 911 operators are commended this week, recent tragic events point to training as key
When Jennifer Johnson called 911 last November, frantically explaining that her ex-boyfriend had kidnapped and locked her in the trunk of a car, the Plant City operator never asked her name. In the 73 seconds the two were on the phone, the dispatcher only asked her location.
Johnson's body was found several days later. The 911 dispatcher, Amanda Hill, was fired, and the dispatch supervisor, a captain and sergeant all resigned.
According to a 700-page investigation, Hill didn't dispatch an officer to try to help Johnson, 31.
These type of mishaps require members of the local Denise Amber Lee Foundation to work year-round on raising awareness of 911 call center inefficiencies, promoting improvements to 911 call centers, and offering assistance to families of murder victims.
April 13-18 is designated as Public Safety Telecommunications Week, recognizing the daily service of 911 operators who help save lives. However, it comes shortly after another highly publicized 911 operator-related tragedy.
On April 4, an Allegheny County, Pa., 911 operator failed to alert officers there were weapons in a home where a mother and son were fighting. Moments after arriving, three officers were killed when a 22-year-old ex-Marine opened fire on them.
"You hate for this to happen," said Plant City Police Chief Bill McDaniel. "I've always said the telecommunications operator is the toughest job in law enforcement. They have to deal with the heightened tension of every situation. They must multitask, balance calls, provide important information, keep the caller calm by asking the right questions and usually have a person standing behind them."
McDaniel said some of his employees mishandled the 911 call, gave out misinformation and didn't follow standard policies.
"We acknowledge our mistakes and hope other agencies learn from them," he said, adding operators have 16 weeks of training.
McDaniel appreciates the efforts of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation in lobbying for universal 911 operator training throughout the United States. Fourteen years ago, he researched the benefits of universal training for 911 operators. He also patterned his 911 operations center after a statewide program in Oregon.
In Lee's case, she was kidnapped last year from her North Port home. As Lee, 21, struggled for her life, she, along with three others, called 911. During a manhunt for Lee, witness Jane Kowalski called a 911 Charlotte County Sheriff's operator and stayed on the line for nine minutes, providing locations where a suspicious man was driving. However, no deputy was dispatched to investigate the driver, who was later identified as the suspect in Lee's murder.
Most states have no standards for 911 telecommunications training. Every law enforcement agency establishes its own.
In North Port, 911 dispatchers handled 77,394 calls in 2008. This year, they have received 21,965 calls so far.
The city is currently two positions short of the budgeted 12 telecommunication operators.
"Our standards are much greater than any mandatory training," said North Port Police Sgt. Scott Graham. "It's necessary for our operators to be competent in every aspect of the job."
The city's telecommunications shift supervisors, Cindy Martin and Misty Elmore, prepare presentations to administrators on a quarterly basis. They outline call volume, overtime, training they've attended, goals and other monthly tasks.
One of their six-month goals is to work more with Charlotte and Lee County operators.
"We send the operators to crisis intervention and other training that's offered to police officers," said Capt. Kevin Vespia, who plans on buying all of the dispatchers lunch or dinner this week to thank them for their dedication to the department.
Vespia said North Port has a solid group of veteran operators who remain calm during some of the most chaotic situations.
"They have been there for so long, they just know how to react," he said.
BY ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH
North Port Community News Editor
Friday, April 10, 2009
FWIW, as our foundation (The Denise Amber Lee Foundation) continues our fight for 9-1-1 improvements in Florida and now across the country, we would never want people to lose faith in 9-1-1. Call 9-1-1 in an emergency. 9-1-1 is wonderful. But it's my opinion it needs standards so that all 9-1-1 centers are on the same page and that they be equipped with the best technology available. 9-1-1 should be evolving along side of consumer communication technology. And we should all learn what our cell phones can and cannot do.
Do you realize many students during the Virginia Tech massacre were all texting 9-1-1? Sadly, you can't text 9-1-1. They didn't know. We need to be educated, young people, old people, middle aged people all need to know what their phones can and cannot do.
Dispatchers are getting a lot of heat. Sadly the dispatcher in Plant City lost her job during this horrific economy. But even more sad and tragic is Jennifer Johnson's family lost a loved on. Jennifer lost her life. Denise lost her life. Olidia Kerr Day lost her life.
Something has to be done. I'm so glad the Herald Tribune stepped up and took on this story. They should be commended.
God bless all call takers and dispatchers out there with compassion, diligence, guidance and patience. We're on your side and we only want to make your jobs easier. You are our front lines, LITERALLY.
Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 6:18 p.m.
The skill, or lack of it, in handling a 911 call can mean the difference between life and death. It can also mean the difference between employment and job loss, as Plant City emergency personnel recently learned.
Their treatment of a 911 call on Nov. 15, from a kidnapped woman who was later found dead, brought the firing this week of a dispatcher and the resignation of her supervisor. Two other people connected to the case resigned or retired.
As the Tampa Tribune reported, an internal investigation concluded that the dispatcher and her supervisors failed to follow up appropriately on the victim's desperate call from the trunk of car.
"This was a human breakdown, not an equipment failure," Plant City Police Chief Bill McDaniel was quoted as saying. "Our emergency communication center is state of the art," he said, noting that dispatchers undergo a 16-week training course.
In this case, errors were punished by job loss. But statewide, 911 mistakes tend to draw light reprimand, the Herald-Tribune's Zac Anderson reported in a series earlier this year.
The Denise Lee aftermath
That series marked the anniversary of the kidnapping and slaying of Denise Lee, a young North Port mother. In her case, a witness's call to Charlotte County's 911 center was mishandled.
Ever since, Lee's grieving survivors have pushed the state to institute reforms, such as standardized training and certification for 911 operators, to help prevent other tragedies in the future.
Currently, Florida has no statewide requirements for training. Standards vary widely by jurisdiction, Anderson reported. Sarasota County's 911 call center is accredited, but it is in the minority.
A bill pending in the Legislature would change that by requiring all emergency 911 dispatchers to earn certification by October 2012. The measure (CS/SB 2040 in the Senate, and CS/HB 769 in the House) gained committee approval, but it still has a long legislative gantlet to run as the clock ticks down on the annual two-month session.
The bill deserves full consideration. Training certification is no cure-all, but it would bring needed consistency to the 911 system. Consistency, in turn, could simplify and improve emergency communication.
High stress, low pay
As we have said before, any discussion of 911 problems should recognize the good work that dispatchers do and the extraordinarily stressful conditions they face, often for relatively low pay.
These workers are tasked with making urgent, knowledgeable decisions, even if the caller is incoherent or panicked. They must be able to use technology, classify calls, select proper codes, find the nearest available police cars, and sometimes talk a person through lifesaving measures.
These are important skills. Statewide certification requirements would be a step toward ensuring that they get the professional respect -- and wage compensation -- they deserve.
Are Botched 911 Calls to Blame for Denise Lee's Death?
It's the ABC Primetime story aired last July 2008.
Why would they send an alert now?
In any case, I thought "well, heck" I might as well blog about it for anyone new to Denise's story or for those who haven't seen it. It focuses on many of the things that went wrong.
I think this is the story that mentions the eyewitnesses who saw the kidnapping but didn't call 9-1-1. What's up with people like that? They thought it was a "domestic dispute". Huh? So, that's okay? Whatever. Denise is dead because people are, for lack of a better word, stupid.
I've been reading a lot about PTSD. That explains a lot of our anger. We're in what seems to be a perpetual "fight or flight" mode. We're mostly "fight".
Much love and peace tonight. I wish I had a picture of Denise in her green Easter dress she wore in 2007. She was pregnant and glowing carrying Adam. She was so beautiful. What a sweetie.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
While we were moving we came across a lot of Nate's stuff stored at our house. In one box were some of Denise's things. This is where I found her recipes. I don't have a lot of things of Denise's. She didn't live and wasn't married long enough to accumulate a lot of things. Anyhow, because Nathan and Denise didn't have a printer but had a computer, Denise would look up recipes on the internet and then handwrite out the recipes. She researched everything! We even found handwritten notes on how she was potty training Noah.
She was trying so hard to be a successful, loved, and accomplished mother and wife. She loved being home with the boys. She liked to go out too but she enjoyed her life.
I've been typing the collection of recipes she had handwritten and I just can't help admire and remember what a lovely young woman she was.
She was just a tiny little thing and beautiful on the inside and out. She was generous. She was selfless.
She certainly didn't deserve to suffer the way she did and she didn't deserve to die.
I look at Noah and Adam. I think of all they are missing and are going to miss. How disrupted their little lives have been.
I watched this video yesterday. You can't help but notice how she's always smiling. You see the joy in the babies and Nate. I look at Nate and I think, there's the old Nate! We'll never have him back either.
sorry to be so morbid. It's really not morbid IMO. It's just naturally missing and grieving a lovely young woman.
How could someone throw away and dispose of such a lovely person? How could someone hurt her and humiliate her? How could someone have so little respect for life that they'd kill her and then dump her.
I'm sorry. I just don't get it.
I guess it's time to go do some needlepoint and remember our blessings. I'm picking up the boys today and we'll have them for dinner:o)
We've got them! Thank God.
Because SHE saved them. Sweet, wonderful, beautiful, smart girl, our Denise.
Love you and miss you, sweetheart.
Monday, April 6, 2009
God bless the Jennifer Johnson family always with as much peace and love as they can handle. May it comfort you to know that eyes are being opened throughout the state of Florida and lives are being saved by Jennifer.
9-1-1 will change in Florida and hopefully sooner rather than later.
God bless the Plant City Police Department for stepping up and doing the right thing by recognizing a critical problem and doing something about it.
Also, God bless all call takers and dispatchers with strength, diligence, common sense and compassion. It's impossible as in this and the Olidia Kerr Day case for victims who are about to be murdered to not get hysterical. It only makes Denise's call seem all that more miraculous. How did she retain her wits and smarts?
God I miss Denise.
Plant City police chief: One fired, three quit in wake of 911 murder case
PLANT CITY -- Under fire about how Plant City police handled a woman's last cry for help before she was found murdered, Chief Bill McDaniel said Monday one person has been fired, two others have resigned, and a fourth retired as a result of an internal investigation of the matter.
At a news conference today, McDaniel said Amanda Hill, a dispatcher since 2006, was fired Friday.
The two supervisors she told about the call she took from Jennifer Johnson, a cry for help from the trunk of a car, have left the force. Rita Liphman, a 20-year veteran with Plant City, resigned Friday. And Sgt. James Watkins retired effective Friday after 21 years with the department, he said.
And Capt. Darrell Wilson resigned Friday after 16 years with the department.
This was not a failure of policy, McDaniel said. All the policies for dealing with cell phones were in place and Wilson was wrong last week when he said they had no regulations for dealing with disconnected cell phone emergency calls.
"It's a failure, an absolute breakdown,'' McDaniel said. But "this is a breakdown of human beings. People failed to do the things they should have done.''
Jennifer Johnson, 31, was found murdered in an abandoned home in Lakeland on Nov. 18, three days after she dialed 911 from the trunk of her car, pleading for help.
Dispatcher Amanda Hill told a Tampa police investigator on Nov. 20 that after she got the call, she alerted two supervisors but neither listened to the tape and no officers were dispatched.
After Johnson's cellular call dropped, Hill didn't attempt to call her back.
Deputies say Johnson's ex-boyfriend, Vincent Brown, abducted Johnson and then killed her. Brown is being held without bail at Falkenburg Road Jail on first degree murder and kidnapping charges.
'It was clearly established where Johnson was, but she failed to go further and ask other questions,'' such as the identity of those involved, the type of car, he said.
And Hill said she thought policy was not to call the phone number back to protect the safety of the person who called, but that is not the policy, McDaniel said.
The Plant City Police Department has the full capability to get a certain amount of information from people who call 911 from cell phones, and the kind she had gave them the cell tower the signal went to and the phone number, he said. A more advanced cell phone would have also given latitude and longitude.
If Hill had properly followed protocol, she would have asked more questions, called Johnson back, contacted the cell provider and dispatched someone to find her, he said.
"I'm unable to explain why inaccurate information came from the captain,'' he said of Wilson. "If all the right steps had been followed, the potential for a different outcome is absolutely there.''
"There is not a policy change. The policy in place at the time was effective, and had it been followed ... ''the outcome might have been different."
Rebecca Catalanello, Times staff writer
Sunday, April 5, 2009
We live on such a roller coaster and it's a daily roller coaster. We're either very very high with our hopes, aspirations and energy or we feel as if we're fighting a war. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground in this journey.
Right now I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. You wouldn't believe all the people working so hard and diligently to try and get some of us out to the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch show the end of this month. And when I say working hard, I mean it. Between phone calls and emails and conversations it's been a lot of work. Not to mention the emotional energy it takes. One minute we're high thinking "yes! We're going to do it! Yes! We're going to make it happen" and the next it could be deep despair wondering "how in the hell are we going to do it?"
The past two weeks there was a lot of politicking in Tallahassee. What a roller coaster of emotion that was. From minute to minute we were either at the high point or the low. It's indescribable.
And it's nothing to do with being manic. We're all experiencing it. I think it has more to do with how passionate we feel about all this. I imagine the Walsh's probably felt the same struggles.
But so many people are stepping up and doing their best. Words in blogs or emails simply can't describe the gratitude I feel whether we make it happen or not. It's the fact that so many people care and realize the importance of preventing further future tragedies. The more awareness the more people will realize the flaws. I met a young lady in the bookstore yesterday. I wish I had some of California's brochures that talk about cell phone use and calling 9-1-1. Young people need to know what their cell phones can and cannot do. Same with old people. We all need to know. It isn't that 9-1-1 is bad. 9-1-1 is wonderful! It's a wonderful system that constantly needs to be changing a long with the rest of us. IMO 9-1-1 needs to evolve along side of communication technology. They should be evolving together.
I'll get off my soapbox because that's not what I intended to convey in this post.
I meant in this post to thank so many persons that I can't even begin to name them. They, I don't think, would want their names out there anyway. They aren't doing this for any pub. They are doing this because they know what's right. And this is right.
Evil infiltrated our family over a year ago. The worst evil imaginable. At one time I thought evil would simply just take us all over. I mean there were so many broken hearts and there was so much anger. Well, we're still broken hearted and that won't change. We're still angry about a lot of things and that probably won't change either. But because of the goodness in all these people, evil will not override our entire lives and EVIL WILL NOT WIN!
That's what I wanted to say.
Much love and peace to all!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Here's channel 8's story:
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
God bless the Johnson family with peace and love. I imagine their hurt and anger are on par with our family's and Olidia Kerr Day's family. Please keep them in your prayers.
Dispatcher: Police Didn't Respond To 911 Call From Trunk
According to documents, Jennifer Johnson was suffocated by two plastic bags tied over her head: a garbage bag and a plastic bag from Party City, where she had purchased supplies for her daughter Je'Neiyce's birthday party.
By VALERIE KALFRIN The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 1, 2009
Updated: 06:50 pm
Police Say Record Was Wrong
Listen To The 911 Call
Hear Brown's Voicemail
Family, Friends Mourn Loss Of 'Hopeless Romantic'
Jennifer Johnson had about a minute to talk before a 911 operator in Plant City lost a connection with her.
"Ma'am, I'm in a trunk right now," the 31-year-old Tampa mother yelled on a copy of the call released today. "They got me in the trunk. … I don't know where I'm at."
Soon after the call disconnected, she was dead.
Prosecutors released the call along with 700 pages of discovery material that outlines the kidnapping and first-degree murder case against Vincent George Brown Jr., Johnson's on-again, off-again boyfriend and the father of her daughter, Je'Neiyce.
The material also contains a report that Plant City police corroborated today showing they never sent an officer to try to find Johnson.
This contradicts dispatch logs the department provided to News Channel 8 in December. At that time, the agency said the logs showed an officer had been sent to search a four-mile stretch of Interstate 4 in Thonotosassa, where a cell-phone tower had picked up Johnson's call.
Plant City police Capt. Darrell Wilson said today that an administrative review found that officer was working an unrelated security check in the area.
"There was never an officer dispatched," Wilson said. "That call log was for something different."
Police Chief Bill McDaniel's office said he was unavailable for comment today.
'I Guess We Shouldn't Have Assumed'
A Plant City communications operator recorded a 911 call with Johnson at 5:30 a.m. Nov. 15 that lasted about 1 minute 20 seconds. The conversation was so brief that Johnson did not provide a description of her car and could not say where she had been kidnapped, the documents say.
The operator had trouble hearing Johnson over loud music in the background. In addition, her cell phone number and wireless provider did not register when the call came in, making it difficult to map, Wilson and the discovery documents say.
The operator told her immediate supervisor and a patrol supervisor about the call after it disconnected, but neither listened to the call nor took any action, a report in the discovery documents says.
The log police provided in December showed an officer was dispatched at 5:38 a.m. that day along the interstate.
Today, Wilson said the department thought that officer had been sent to search for Johnson because of the agency's policy to send an officer to the last-known location of a disconnected 911 call.
"I guess we shouldn't have assumed," he said.
Johnson's phone did not have global-positioning system technology to help police pinpoint where she was. Her trunk did not have an internal release.
Activist Seeks 911 Reform
All cell phones should have GPS technology, said Nathan Lee, the president of a foundation named after his wife Denise Amber Lee.
"I got a GPS that can tell me where I'm going on the interstate," Nathan Lee said. "But we can't track down a cell phone? That's unbelievable."
Denise Amber Lee, 21, was abducted from her North Port home on Jan. 17, 2008. The daughter of a Charlotte County sheriff's sergeant, her disappearance touched off of a massive search by multiple agencies that ultimately failed to save her, but communications mistakes made on the night of her murder have spawned a broader movement to change the way emergency calls are handled in Florida and across the nation.
Nathan Lee is leading a push to ensure 911 dispatchers in Florida follow uniform regulations in handling emergency calls. Every agency's protocol is different, and dispatchers throughout the state have varying levels of training, Lee said.
A disparity in technology between 911 call centers is also an issue, he said. "The technology is there. Counties just can't get funding for it."
Although Johnson's signal couldn't be pinpointed, Lee said he finds it "very disturbing" that police said they sent units to find her when they really didn't.
Uniform standards for dispatchers—and technology—may have saved Johnson and his wife, Lee said.
"The foundation is going to get in touch with the Johnsons and offer our condolences," he said. "We want to let them know that progress is being made."
Johnson's family found her appeal for help heart-wrenching.
"It's devastating for me to hear," Rachel Johnson, the slain woman's sister, said of the 911 call. "She was reaching out for help, but no one was there to help her. I think about it every day, and there's nothing I can do."
Only Chance To Cry For Help
Johnson's aunt, Levery White, said even if the police were unable to find her, they should have tried.
"They didn't even send nobody. They didn't care," she said.
Relatives reported Johnson missing the evening of Nov. 15 after she did not show up for her daughter's birthday party.
Tampa police tracked her cell-phone activity through the phone company and on the morning of Nov. 18 discovered the 911 call had hit on a cell-phone tower at Interstate 4 and Thonotosassa Road.
Tampa police think the 911 call was the only opportunity Johnson had to communicate with authorities.
Johnson was found dead the evening of Nov. 18 in the garage of a vacant house in Lakeland, just south of Interstate 4 at the Kathleen Road exit. Her cell phone was tucked in her bra.
Phone records indicate that from about 8:15 a.m. Nov. 15 until the phone ran out of power, its signal pinged off a cell tower near the house where her body was found. She made no other calls.
Brown, 39, is accused of killing Johnson on Nov. 15, Je'Neiyce's 2nd birthday. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said detectives are investigating whether someone helped Brown. "There could be more arrests in the case," she said today.
Tribune reporter Ray Reyes and News Channel 8 reporters Krista Klaus and Samara Sodos contributed to this report. Reporter Valerie Kalfrin can be reached at (813) 259-7800
As David Garofalo was quoted as saying this is a great big first step. But it really is only a first step.
I believe 2012 is way too long to wait for change. It would be difficult to fully support this knowing that tragedies could be prevented if the change was brought about sooner. What are we to say to those families that may lose a loved one between now and when this is fully implemented through either a 9-1-1 mishap or by not using technology that's available now?
Also, we don't believe certain 9-1-1 centers should have an opportunity to be "grandfathered" in.
It's difficult to support anything that suggests that the 9-1-1 industry continue to watchdog itself. When tragedies occur we need outside persons investigating, in my opinion. That's part of my frustration with Governor Charlie Crist. He's apparently the only person that can demand an external investigation into Denise's 9-1-1 debacle that occured in the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office still insists they have no problems in their 9-1-1 center and that the problems they had have been addressed. How do we know this? We don't. We have to take them at their word. Gee. We took them at their word and found their word didn't mean much.
So, we still have a ways to go.
But, this is a positive first step! It shows that people truly do care and want to make a difference. That, and I don't want to seem ungrateful for all the work that everyone has been doing because truly it means so much to us.
No, they can't save Denise and they can't bring her back. But! They can help prevent further tragedies!!!! It's awesome that people who may have been asleep on this issue are waking up and that others who have been diligently working on this for years are seeing some results.
It's a start anyways. Just my opinion.
911 training bills moving forward
By SARA KENNEDY - firstname.lastname@example.org
MANATEE — Legislation requiring statewide training and certification for 911 dispatchers has won the backing of the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association and is given a good chance of passage this year, officials said.
“My understanding is it has strong support in both House and Senate,” said Longboat Key Police Chief Albert Hogle, who also serves on the legislative committee for the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
“It’s going very, very well,” noted Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, a sponsor of the bill attempting to remedy Florida’s patchwork system of voluntary training by instituting mandatory instruction and certification.
Last week, a companion bill, House Bill 769, won approval from one House of Representatives committee, and an amended version of Detert’s original bill, Senate Bill 2040, is slated for review before a Senate committee today, said Rep. Kenneth Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, a co-sponsor of the House bill with Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda.
“It will improve the public’s confidence in the 911 system in Florida,” Roberson said Tuesday.
The 911 system came under scrutiny last year after the family of an abducted North Port woman complained that confusion at a Charlotte County 911 call center deprived law enforcement officers of a chance to save her life. The family of murdered Denise Amber Lee set up a foundation in her memory to urge reforms.
The police chiefs’ doubts about how the plan might work and which agency would oversee training and certification have been resolved, Hogle said.
He added that the sheriff’s association, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a national organization of dispatchers are working together to formalize standards. They also are discussing a reasonable deadline for when 911 operators must have completed formal training and certification, he said.
“It appears the Senate and the House will help make this happen in a fashion that will work for the benefit of all concerned parties,” said Hogle. “Everybody recognizes there’s been opportunities to do a better job and everybody wants to do a better job.”
Gerald Monahan, president of the chiefs’ association, said amendments to the House version helped bolster support for it because it clarified that operators could train at their own dispatch centers as long as they finished an approved curriculum and won state certification.
That’s important to local government because in order to have everybody certified by a certain date requires a vehicle to help make it happen, Monahan said.
“The Florida police chiefs certainly understand how this all came about,” he added. “Our hearts are still heavy for the (Lee) family. We want to do the right thing, We do want good training for our dispatch centers. Our mission and goals are the same as the foundation’s and the family’s.”
Dispatchers have been looking for a long time for some type of certification process, and “we finally reached a point where everybody can agree,” said Roy Hudson, director of law enforcement services for the Florida Sheriffs Association. “It adds a little more to their professionalism.”
The early version of the House bill would have required uniform training, so operators in Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties, for example, would have had to meet the same standards, said David Garofalo, North Port city commissioner and a board member of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.
“Now, it may be minimum standards, but not really uniform standards,” he said. “We probably want to go to the next level, with uniform training, but we want the police chiefs and sheriffs on our side.
“It’s a big step,” he added.
New requirements probably would have little effect on about 30 full-time sheriff’s office 911 dispatchers, since they already take intense training, said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.
Still, he favors mandatory standards and certification because “it does put a template out there for the minimum of training for all dispatchers, whether it be 911 or sheriff’s office or police department dispatchers.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908 or at email@example.com