It's chilling tale of the tape at county 911 Center

The audio is chilling.

"I'm shot. I'm shot. I'm shot."

The voice belongs to Folcroft Police Officer Chris Dorman, involved in a life-and-death struggle with a drug suspect last Friday morning.

Perhaps almost as chilling is the knowledge that while Dorman was fighting for his life after being shot seven times, no one at the county 911 Center heard his plea for help.

That's because a computer glitch in the new system installed at the County Emergency Communications Center in Lima had failed, leaving dispatchers in the dark, unaware of the violent struggle playing out on the streets of Folcroft.

Luckily, his fellow officers heard his plea, and were able to respond.

But for four crucial minutes, that was not the case for the county's 911 dispatchers.

A severely wounded Officer Dorman staggered into the arms of another officer, who rushed him to nearby Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. But Folcroft Sgt. Bill Bair indicates his efforts to reach the 911 Center were unsuccessful.

A second officer was fired upon after arriving on the scene and confronting the suspect, and again the 911 Center initially was unaware. Luckily, he was not by any bullets.

Obviously, the same cannot be said of Dorman. He was hit seven times in the violence encounter, taking bullets in his face - including one that entered one cheek and exited the other - neck, groin and shoulder. Three other bullets, two in his chest and one in his back, were stopped by his bulletproof vest. Doctors later indicated that vest likely saved his life.

Now it's essential that the county figure out why another essential lifeline for police and firefighters in the field failed at an essential time when they were needed most.

The outage last only four minutes. But they were four crucial minutes when the heartbeat of emergency communications in the county was unaware of what was happening in Folcroft and unable to deliver assistance.

"In this situation, four minutes is really like four hours," said County Council Chairman Mario Civera Monday as officials began to review what happened.

The county recently plunked down $800,000 to upgrade the county 911 radio system. Wednesday representatives of the firm that installed the system, Zetron, planned to have a representative here in Delco to investigate the glitch.

Initial indications are that for some reason the computer being used by the dispatcher rebooted while he was talking to officers in the field. The dispatcher was forced to move to another computer.

Zetron noted they are in the initial stages of their investigation, reviewing the computer-based logs of Friday morning's radio communications.

It appears the county also will seek an independent review of the 911 system. County Executive Director Marianne Grace said the county was contracting with an industry expert to conduct a separate investigation of the incident.

Civera sounded the single note that everyone has in the aftermath of this kind of glitch.

"This can't happen again," he said.

You can say that again.

The hunt for the suspect who shot Folcroft Officer Chris Dorman was concluded quickly.

We hope the same can be said for the investigation into why a glitch knocked down crucial communications at the county 911 Center at the same time.


Anonymous said…
Wow, get your facts straight. There are so many things wrong with this post. Ps. Typo 'The outage last only four minutes.'