How Safe Are We In Cannon County?

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On October 9 at 12:37, Monitronics received a burglary alarm from our home. As standard procedure, Monitronics tried calling the home to reach us then when there was no answer they tried reaching my husband’s cell phone. Because there was no answer they notified the police at 12:41 and gave them the word of a possible burglary at my home at the back window. At 12:46, Monitronics finally reached me on my cell phone as I was entering city limits on John Bragg Highway at the new Wal-Mart on Rutherford Boulevard in Murfreesboro. This is where I become angry with our emergency system in Cannon County.

Here are your times:

12:37 - alarm sounds at my home which notifies Monitronics (alarm system)

12:41 - Monitronics dispatched police

12:48 - Call goes to officer regarding the possible burglary at my home

13:12 - officer arrives at my home

13:18 - officer leaves my home

13:20 - I arrive at my home

Did you notice above that it took 7 minutes for dispatch to notify an officer of the possible break in?

Did you notice that it took the officer 24 minutes to arrive on the scene even though he was in Woodbury at the time? I can get to Woodbury city limits in 7 minutes from my home.

Did you notice that I made it from Murfreesboro in 32 minutes - only 8 minutes difference than the officer?

Now, why did it take 7 minutes to dispatch an officer? According to the dispatch center in Woodbury, the officer was on a call. Shouldn’t the call have been dispatched as soon as possible? The officer would have been able to make the decision as to which call he was needed the most at that time.

Should it have taken him 24 minutes to arrive? That seems like a long time considering I made it from Murfreesboro in 32 minutes without sirens or lights. According to Lieutenant Hall they don’t run with their lights and sirens on unless the caller states it is an emergency because they get tons of these type calls everyday where a dog or cat has set off the alarm.

Okay, this may be true but shouldn’t every call that goes through be treated as an emergency? I think it should but our law enforcement does not think so. If they had of treated this as an emergency, it would not have taken 7 minutes to dispatch an officer, 24 minutes to arrive and lights and sirens would have been used.

The officer did not even look through my home. Investigator Charlie Wilder and Lieutenant Hall states that they cannot enter the home without home owners present. That’s understandable but I called the dispatcher when I reached the flashing lights at Parsley’s to find out the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the officer. She called to him and asked the officer his ETA and stated that the homeowner was afraid of arriving before the officer so he was aware I was on my way.

Should the officer have left before I arrived? I think he should have waited for me to arrive and went through my home to make sure no one was hiding inside. Instead my husband had to do this.

When speaking with Lieutenant Hall I also found that only 2 deputies were on that day and he was the second. Only 2 deputies for the whole county? Once again, how safe are we?

Another question that I asked the dispatcher when I called to get these times was in an emergency shouldn’t we send out our city deputies? She did state that they can in an emergency.

How did they know in the beginning before talking to me that I was not held at gun point? Our law enforcement just assumed that day that it was not an emergency. Thank God it wasn’t because I have 2 small children.

I spoke with Sheriff Nichols about this incident as well. However, he blew me off by saying, “I will check into this situation and hopefully it will not happen again.” Have I heard from Sheriff Nichols as to what his plan may be? No, not a word.

My opinion - There should never be only 2 deputies on for the whole county. That is ridiculous and crazy on the Sheriff’s part to allow this to happen. Okay, you are short staffed, then earn your living Sheriff and get in that car yourself and check out these emergency calls such as mine that day. Be aware of what is going on in your county.

I have had to call on the emergency system one other time in which I was not happy. When my son was 8 days old, he choked on a mucus plug from birth and turned blue 3 different times. Thank God I am a nurse because when I called 911, Roy Sullivan answered. During my frantic call I had to ask him if he was there 3 different times. I explained to him what had happened; he dispatched out emergency personnel to me but never once gave me the first instruction as we see on TV during emergency calls. After my son’s recovery, I called back just as I have in this situation to find out some important information. When I spoke to Roy Sullivan about why the dispatcher didn’t give me instruction on how to take care of my son, his exact words were “If I recall that day your son was crying.” At this point I knew he was the one that answered my 911 call. He then stated that you have to be certified to give out instructions. Roy Sullivan is the director over our 911 system and what he was telling me 2 years ago when this happened was he was not certified to give me instructions.

What is up with that? Once again, how safe are we in Cannon County when the director of 911 is not certified, answers the phone as dispatcher for 911 and cannot give you instructions when your child is turning blue?

Roy Sullivan may say as he said that day “We had first responders at your home in 3 minutes.” And that is great if he had been more prepared. The man entered my yard, I ran out with my son and met him. He was as scared as I was. He held my son in the air saying, “breathe baby breathe,” took him to his vehicle and placed oxygen on him which ran out before the ambulance arrived. My husband came all the way from the other side of East Side School and arrived at our home, helped me work on our son before the ambulance arrive. On this occasion, it took 4 minutes for the EMT’s to load up in the ambulance according to the dispatcher. What is up with that? Four minutes!! Emergency means now, not later. Maybe we should overhaul our emergency system - hire new people who care.

I know there are problems in emergency are, I work it everyday as a nurse but never do I assume that an emergency is not an emergency. Every call should be treated as an emergency. I think that we deserve an explanation of your plan of action to improve the emergency system here in Cannon County.

From a concerned citizen.

Melissa Hedrick
Woodbury, TN 37190
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Members Opinions:
November 03, 2009 at 11:52am
Unless you have walked a mile in the shoes of a dispatcher or EMS worker, please don't judge them.
November 04, 2009 at 4:10pm
I think some people tend to have some misconceptions in how the 911 Dispatch Center receives and dispatches calls at the 911 Center and feel the Citizens of Cannon County should have some insight into the daily duties of a 911 Dispatcher. 911 dispatchers in Cannon County receive well over 100 hrs of training as required by the State of Tennessee to be a 911 dispatcher, or properly termed, 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator. There are many more hours of training that they attend, not because they are required to but because they have the desire to be the best 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator they can be. Cannon County 911 Dispatch Center receives an average of 260 calls for service weekly, 65 on average are 911 in origin. Regardless of the call volume, these calls are received and dispatched. As a result of their training, a dispatcher must decide which units to be dispatched, which order in which to dispatch them, the priority in which to dispatch them based on the call information received at the time. Many variables must be taken into account and a decision made within seconds. At the same time the dispatcher must document the information given, answer radio traffic, answer incoming phone calls, make outgoing calls and depending on the incident, be done while dispatching four different emergency response agencies. During severe weather, the call volume can double as well as the number of residential or business burglar alarm calls that are received.
Below is a burglar alarm call that was received at 12:37 on October the 9th and events surrounding that particular call.
12:25 A Tornado Watch was issued for Cannon County
12:35 Sheriff’s Deputy attempts service of a criminal paper
12:38 Burglar alarm activation in the western part of the county, second Deputy on duty is dispatched to that call
12:41 Burglar alarm activation at a different residence, north of Woodbury.
12:48 Deputy completes service of the criminal paper and is immediately dispatched to the second alarm call
13:02 Deputy on first alarm call advises residence appears secure, back in service
13:12 Deputy arrives on scene of second alarm call
13:18 Deputy on second alarm call advises residence appears secure, back in service
This is just one example of how one call affects the other. Mutual aid guidelines are in place and utilized as needed. Many variables are involved and required prioritization comparable to what is required to do in medical triage when dealing with multiple calls.
The Cannon County 911 District has come a long way since assuming control of full operations July 1, 2007 and moving into the new dispatch center April 2008.
All operators meet and exceed the minimum requirements set forth by the State of Tennessee for receiving or transferring a 911 call.
One goal as 911 Director was to raise the level of training for all employees at the 911 center and to ensure continuing education.
Contrary to what people see on TV, the State of Tennessee does not require agencies to dispatch emergency medical pre-arrival instructions to 911 callers and some counties still do not do so. Cannon County 911 has chosen to provide the best service available to the citizens of Cannon County and now holds the certifications required to dispatch emergency medical pre-arrival instructions as needed.
Another accomplishment has been the implementation of dispatching EMS by radio resulting in the ambulance en-route time being cut in half. It is an ongoing process to explore ways to quicken the response times by the various emergency response agencies that serve Cannon County and this is only a few things that have been implemented in doing so.

Anyone that has had the privilege to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia has seen the pride and professionalism instilled in the Sentinels that are in trusted to guard the Tomb. During the day, the public can watch the Changing of The Guard ceremony. But what most people don’t know is that those Sentinels guard the Tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days week, 365 days a year, rain or shine. Only one time were they requested to stand down and that was for an incoming hurricane, to which the Sentinels refused to leave their post.
Dispatchers man their consoles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year but because they work behind closed doors, are often overlooked and don’t get the recognition they deserve to ensure 911 service to all the citizens of Cannon County, at times sacrificing their personal lives to do so. If you see a dispatcher regardless of where they work, please stop them and thank them for their time and service to the counties and cities they serve.

Respectfully submitted,
Roy Sullivan
Cannon County 911 Emergency Communications District

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