Charleston County’s 911 problems traced to specific ‘call taker,’ officials say
A 911 “call taker” failed to pass on several calls for help, and she is no longer taking calls, Charleston County officials said Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office is investigating 911 calls made during July and August after a Mount Pleasant man complained that he and his wife called for help twice and police never showed up.
Investigators have found that other calls also were not passed on to police, and those calls are also linked to that one former call taker, Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas said at a news conference.
“We know it’s not systemic,” Lucas said, “We’ve narrowed it down to one employee. I’m confident the safety of Charleston County is not in jeopardy.”
The call taker, who was not identified, is no longer taking calls, according to County Administrator Kurt Taylor. He would not say whether she quit, was fired or was on leave. She had been working for the 911 center about two years, he said.
“We want to assure the public they can have confidence when they call 911,” he said.
Call takers handle calls from the public. Dispatchers then pass that information to police, fire and EMS.
The county’s investigation is expected to take about two weeks, Lucas said.
Officials released the 911 calls that sparked the investigation Wednesday. Ira Lewis and his wife called 911 twice around dawn Aug. 25 to report a group of burglars trying to break into his neighbor’s home in Mount Pleasant. The second time he told the dispatcher that one of the men was hiding under a bush.
The dispatcher failed to ask several routine questions, such as whether the callers were in a safe place or what their callback number was. Police said the calls were never passed on to them.
Mount Pleasant officers stopped by Lewis’ house Wednesday to take a report. Maj. Stan Gragg said officers canvassed the neighborhood but found no homes had been broken into the morning in question.
Lewis said he was relieved to find out the problem seemed to be one call taker not doing her job.
“If the system’s not broke, great, that puts me more at ease,” Lewis said Wednesday. “I feel better about it.”
Lucas said that 911 call taker had failed to pass on calls to police in several jurisdictions.
A North Charleston woman called the newspaper Wednesday to say she had called a male dispatcher several times and never gotten help.
Geraldine Singleton of North Charleston said she called the 911 center three times on July 20 after a water moccasin slithered into her house when she opened her door to let her dog out. She said she told a male dispatcher three different times that the poisonous snake went behind a television set, leaving her terrified.
“I was told all three times, ‘Hang in there. They’re coming,’ ” she said. “I just stood there screaming and crying and the police never showed up.”
Finally, some of her neighbors in the Colony North subdivision came to her aid and killed the snake, Singleton said.
Upset, Singleton said she emailed her City Council representative, Rhonda Jerome, who checked with police and learned they had never been notified of her calls for help.
Jerome could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Police spokesman Spencer Pryor said he could not immediately verify Singleton’s account of the incident.
Glenn Smith contributed to this story. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.