Mishandled 911 calls lead to enhanced Bullitt Co. training - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Mishandled 911 calls lead to enhanced Bullitt Co. training

Bullitt County 911 administrators are making changes to training procedures after dispatchers mishandled three medical calls over the past month. (Source: WAVE 3 News) Bullitt County 911 administrators are making changes to training procedures after dispatchers mishandled three medical calls over the past month. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Mike Phillips (Source: WAVE 3 News) Mike Phillips (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Zoneton Fire Chief Rob Orkies (Source: WAVE 3 News) Zoneton Fire Chief Rob Orkies (Source: WAVE 3 News)

SHEPHERDSVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Bullitt County 911 administrators are making changes to training procedures after dispatchers mishandled three medical calls over the past month, a WAVE 3 News investigation revealed. The medical emergencies included one case in which an 18-year-old man later died. 

In the three cases, dispatchers incorrectly asked firefighters to respond along with EMS when longstanding policies don't allow them.

Four of the six Bullitt County fire agencies have strict limitations on medical response because few firefighters are trained as EMTs. The others, Shepherdsville and Mt. Washington, recently began responding to more medical calls. Dispatch training didn't reflect that, said Mike Phillips, the director of Bullitt County Emergency Services. 

“We've reevaluated our orientation process for new hires,” Phillips said. “Dispatchers are doing one thing for two departments, and the old policy for the other four departments.”

On Aug. 1, a woman called Bullitt County 911 from Zoneton Road to report an 18-year-old man who was “turning blue, turning purple” and was barely conscious, according to the audio call. The call log indicates the dispatcher first called the Zoneton Fire Protection District, which has a station about seven minutes from the emergency. A Zoneton Fire captain called back to tell the dispatcher about the policy.

“Per our protocol, unless they're in full arrest, we cannot make the run,” the Zoneton Fire captain says on the call. Meanwhile, the dispatcher learned Bullitt County ambulances in the area were busy and Yellow Ambulance, a private company, didn't have a crew nearby.

The dispatcher called Hillview Police to respond, and it took more than 10 minutes for the first-arriving officer to arrive. 

By that time, the 18-year-old patient was in full arrest, said Roy Raines, a spokesman for Hillview Police. An ambulance and a Zoneton Fire crew, which had been re-dispatched because of the upgraded call level, arrived and took the patient to Jewish Hospital South, where doctors pronounced him dead.

“The initial response was a dispatcher error,” Zoneton Fire Chief Rob Orkies said. “Difficulty breathing is not one of the (call types) we're covered to respond to.”

Under an eight-year-old policy, Zoneton, Lebanon Junction, Southeast Bullitt and Nichols Fire can respond to calls classified as “unconscious and not breathing” or for help lifting a person or driving an ambulance, Orkies said.

Firefighters are trained in CPR and in using automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs, Orkies said. 

Shepherdsville Fire Chief Layne Troutman said his department began responding to more medical runs about four months ago, along with Mt. Washington. Ambulances were often tied up, Troutman said. 

“We were trying to add a better service in our city,” he said, adding that he felt the increased call volume was making a difference in Shepherdsville. But few Bullitt County firefighters are EMTs, meaning they can't administer medicine and could only comfort patients on many medical runs, Orkies said.

Orkies said he could see how remember different policies among fire agencies might be confusing for dispatchers making quick decisions.

The parents of the 18-year-old patient, who WAVE 3 News declined to identify, said they felt the emergency response was appropriate.The young man, who had muscular dystrophy, suffered a blood clot and there was nothing that could be done, his father said by phone.

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