City reviews 911 call involving dead infant, delayed emergency response

The city found the infant had likely been dead for some time before EMS arrived.
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:18 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A city review of a 911 call involving a dead infant has found the delayed emergency response, totaling almost 12 minutes, had no effect on the outcome.

The call took place around 2 p.m. on Aug. 7. A woman called 911 to report her infant was nonresponsive.

Technical shortcomings and communication difficulties dragged out the response, but early indications showed the infant had actually died beforehand, possibly hours before the 911 call took place.

The death has been ruled accidental.

City Manager Paula Boggs Muething described the findings of the review in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and members of Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday.

It showcases the problems inherent in using a 911 system designed for landlines during a time when most incoming calls are made from mobile phones.

“Though it would not have changed the outcome in this case, this tragic event is another reminder of the difficulties presented with wireless phone calls to 911,” Muething wrote.

Mobile phone connections are not always clear and reliable, according to the memo.

“911 calls can compound those challenges as they present difficult, often chaotic, environments with callers experiencing severe distress and panic,” Muething wrote.

Moreover, landlines provide 911 operators exact addresses, but operators must rely on GPS pings to locate mobile phones. Those pings provide general locations but are sometimes inaccurate and are especially poor at providing locations in multi-story, multifamily buildings.

Without an exact location, the operator during the call had to rely on the woman’s responses to questions. But the operator had difficulty hearing and understanding the “distraught caller,” according to Muething’s memo.

“Although Emergency Response was dispatched to the correct location, the difficulty in obtaining accurate information caused a delay of approximately 3 minutes and 45 seconds,” Muething wrote. “Upon arrival, Emergency Response found that the infant had been deceased for some time.”

Muething notes the so-called “Smart 911″ technology, deployed in Cincinnati, allows users to connect a cell phone number to addresses, including a home, school and work.

>> Sign up for Smart 911 here.

“With this information, ECC and Emergency Responders can more readily determine the location of a call, helping to facilitate a faster response,” Muething said.

Smart 911 lets you build a profile for you and your household members.

“Whatever information you provide in that profile is accessible to 911, and when any of those people call 911, it’s based off your telephone number, and if you call 911 from one of the phone numbers associated with the Smart 911 profile, that information is displayed for the 911 operator,” Emergency Communications Center Director Bill Vedra explained.

You can even provide health information.

“If you live or work or visit any part of the Tri-State or Greater Cincinnati area, Smart 911 is absolutely something you should sign up for,” Vedra said.

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