Will 911 Come When You Call?

Kathy Mein called 911 when her husband went into cardiac arrest. When on phone with the dispatcher, she gave her address on Southwest 35th Street in Ankeny, Iowa, outside of Des Moines.

But, as CBS News correspondent Bob McNamara reports, emergency crews were sent to the wrong house because the caller's phone number wasn't linked to the right address.

A police officer was caught on tape at the wrong address, saying "I'm here and the subject says there's nothing wrong here."

Rescuers did finally reach the correct address, but too late to save 48-year-old Scott Mein.

"It happens a lot, I believe, and I just don't think that people realize it of don't report it, it's just this time when someone died," Scott's wife, Kathy Mein said.

She's right. McNamera found a similar mistake happened in a Denver suburb recently.

"He's not breathing. Oh my God!" A frantic mother, Krista Staats, said in a call to 911.

"Ma'am, calm down. Is he conscious?" said the dispatcher.

"He's not breathing."

Five-month-old Christopher Vasquez' mother's call was transferred several times in an address mix-up. Her infant died.

"No mother would ever, ever want to do that," Staats said. "Never."

In the Denver area alone, hundreds of wrong addresses have been reported in each of the last several years.

Now, in a campaign to correct address errors, 911 database provider Intrado has introduced a way customers can verify whether their phone number and address match 911 records

Despite a heavy volume of 911 calls nationwide, emergency industry officials say any errors are usually human and rare.

"I would say that one-tenth of one percent would be a lot," said John Kelly, a 911 center representative.

One 911 caller from Anchorage, Ala., told dispatchers, "I've been shot, please!" and "I'm bleeding to death."

But it took 45 minutes to find this caller — after emergency crews first went to the wrong address. In another recorded conversation between the victim and 911 dispatch, the emergency worker asks, "Is there a flag in your driveway?" The answer was no.

This caller survived the wait for the ambulance crew to reach him.

But the mother who was trapped in this tragedy, Krista Staats, says no one should assume 911 has their correct address.

"Don't call 911, but call your phone company and make sure," Staats advises. "And I would repeatedly call."

Krista Staats says her case is a crusade now, to correct a system so many trusted, but that failed a helpless infant who needed it most.
  • Christine Lagorio

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