Victim of fire eyes review of equipment at 911 center
Dropped call has led to concerns about reliability.
By TONY BRITT
Matt Cason, 28, was severely burned Aug. 29, while igniting a trash fire and attempted to call the Columbia County 911 Communications Center.
Cason’s call, however, went to an “open line,” which allowed him to hear dispatchers even though they couldn’t hear his cries for help.
Cason said he remembers his call to the 911 Communications Center was not immediately answered.
Cason said he was uncertain how long he yelled at dispatchers before someone picked up the telephone, but he believes approximately two minutes had elapsed.
“From the time that I was dialing 911, I got in my truck, had driven down (County Road) 242, gotten on the interstate and driven about three miles,” he said. “I remember someone finally talking to me after I was screaming and trying to get somebody to acknowledge me. They didn’t answer me until I had been on the phone for a while.”
Although dispatchers were initially unable to hear Cason, he was able to hear them well enough that he attempted to answer the questions they asked his wife, Carrie, on another telephone line.
“My biggest concern is that this doesn’t happen again,” Cason said. “Luckily, I was coherent enough to make decisions on my own, but it could have been a worse case than that …”
Cason said once he was able to talk to the dispatchers, even though their connection was once lost, dispatchers called him back and they were extremely helpful in talking him through on his drive to the hospital.
“The lady that called me back, I definitely remember the most,” he said. “She did an awesome
Cason, a Columbia County native, was released from the hospital earlier this week and is attempting to recuperate from his injuries. He said he expects to be under doctor’s care for at least two months.
“I’m doing well they say and I’m recovering as good as I can,” he said. “I feel great. Three days ago I couldn’t even walk and here I’m able to walk about a little bit inside the house. I can’t leave the house, but I feel good.”
He said there should be some type of extra review initiated in checking the equipment and procedures at the 911 Communications Center following last month’s incident.
“(Things) should be reviewed and checked because it could cost a life,” he said. “It’s not like we’re ordering car parts or something here. This is a matter of life and death situations that are coming into this call center.
“Luckily for me it wasn’t a death situation,” he said, “but who knows what would be next. Who knows what would happen tomorrow if it happened again. It really does raise a concern, but I just hope it doesn’t happen with something where there is a more severe outcome.”
Two years ago, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office took over the responsibility of dispatching calls for EMS, the sheriff’s office and the Lake City and Columbia County fire departments.
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chuck Brewington, who is over the sheriff’s office communication’s division, said technicians were at the communications center earlier this week, checking the equipment.
He said the technicians checked the system and went through the alarm schematics as part of their review.
“At this point in time we are not able to determine anything different from what we knew,” Brewington said. “They were not able to find a flaw in the line or an alarm. It’s a glitch in the system.”
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications Center staff members hope the system’s review leads to the source of the problem.
“I was hoping to find the issues and be able to get it corrected, but at this time we’re not able to find any indication of what is actually wrong with it,” Brewington said.