Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

Metro dispatchers’ conduct questioned after fatal apartment fire

OKLAHOMA CITY -  There are questions about the Oklahoma City's 911 dispatch system, and how emergency callers are treated after Sunday's deadly fire.

The apartment fire claimed the lives of a woman and three children.

Frantic calls were placed to 911, and now, some are questioning the way those calls were handled.

"It's not uncommon at all to receive a lot of 911 calls,"  said OKC Fire Department Public Information Officer Benny Fulkerson.

OKC Fire officials say they got over a dozen calls Sunday morning reporting this large fatal NW OKC apartment fire.
But some are calling dispatchers rude or at least curt when responding to this phone call.

Caller: Hello?
Dispatcher: well you called 911.
Caller: Yeah I have a fire in my apartment..
Dispatcher: What address do you need us?
Caller: I need fire right now.
Dispatcher: What address do you need us? Give me your address..

"At first ear shot it could sound like a dispatcher was being rude or too curt. There are time that it's not only acceptable but necessary and required to be curt because you have to move that 911 call along," said Fulkerson who was a dispatcher for 14 years.

Fulkerson says it's imperative to get a location so crews can be sent, no matter the emergency.

Dispatcher: What's going on there.?.
Caller: Fire Fire ..
Dispatcher:Do what?..
Caller: Fire..
Dispatcher:Ok what's going on there?.
Caller:Fire,Fire ...there is a fire in my apartment.. Fast..

"They are trying to get rigs dispatched to that call and get as much information as quickly as they possibly can and you have to take control of that phone call and that person wasn't even responding to us initially," said Fulkerson.

Another 911 call about the fire had a caller on hold for close to 45 seconds.

Fulkerson says that's not uncommon when a large incident occurs. Dozens of calls have to be processed. OKC Fire has two, sometimes three, people always staffing the phones.

"We are staffed adequately for the call volume that we have in Oklahoma City," said Fulkerson. "There was no delay in fact we had a 4 minute response time from the time the dispatchers took the call to the time the first unit arrived on scene and that’s a fantastic response time."

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