Officials: 911 dispatcher didn't follow protocols
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A 911 dispatcher who took the call of an 89-year-old Arlington Heights man from his sinking car on July 24 didn't follow the proper protocols, officials said.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
A 911 dispatcher was suspended for three days without pay after her bosses said she didn't follow the proper protocols in responding to a call from an Arlington Heights man whose car was sinking in a retention pond.
In addition, officials from the Northwest Central Dispatch System say the employee should have been reviewing water rescue procedures a month before, as part of a self-training exercise required of all dispatchers.
She never did because she was on vacation at the time, officials said.
"Your actions exhibit a breakdown in performance along with not adhering to the (National Academies of Emergency Dispatch's) Code of Ethics and Conduct," according to an Aug. 27 disciplinary notice sent to the employee.
The dispatcher, a 15-year employee, was also told that "additional breakdowns" in her job performance would result in "progressive disciplinary action," according to the notice.
The dispatcher responded to the call at 6:59 a.m. July 25 from 89-year-old Henry Laseke after he accidentally drove his Cadillac SUV into a pond near his home on Courtland Drive. He drowned before he could be rescued.
According to a recording of the 911 call, Laseke told the dispatcher, "Help me, help me quick," and "Hurry up, I'm sinking."
The dispatcher can be heard repeatedly telling Laseke to calm down and that help is on the way. She asked Laseke if he was in the car, what kind of car it was and what happened.
But the disciplinary notice sent to the dispatcher said she failed to enter the proper codes in the dispatch agency's computer system.
And the employee should have used a protocol card that outlines what to do or ask a caller in the case of a sinking vehicle, said Cindy Barbera-Brelle, the dispatch system's executive director.
"We follow the cards as they are written so we don't do any ad-libbing," Barbera-Brelle said. "The card would say advise the caller X, Y and Z."
Northwest Central officials sent an email to all dispatchers June 27 that told them to review a protocol card on water rescue procedures. Dispatchers were asked to complete a computerized training exercise in which they were to pretend to respond to a call for a stranded motorist whose vehicle was sinking.
The dispatcher was off work from June 26 through July 7, though the agency's computer system showed that she read the email when she returned to work July 8, according to the disciplinary notice.
During a meeting July 29, the dispatcher told her bosses that she "didn't recall" receiving the email and indicated that she didn't do the exercise "because the day shift is too busy and that (she was) off for an extended period of time," the notice said.
"It was sent to everybody with the expectation they would do the review," Barbera-Brelle said.
It's not the first time the dispatcher has faced disciplinary action.
In February, she was issued a written reprimand for not sending Rolling Meadows police to an ambulance call for an unconscious 80-year-old man who later died. Rolling Meadows police are supposed to respond on all calls when a person is unconscious, according to the disciplinary notice.
As a result of the drowning, officials at the dispatch agency called for mandatory in-person training sessions for all dispatchers to review so-called "low frequency, high risk" incidents, such as a car in water.
There are additional hands-on training sessions scheduled for next week, Barbera-Brelle said.
The Arlington Heights-based dispatch agency handles 911 calls for 11 Northwest suburbs, including Arlington Heights.
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