They say that every second counts but in Wilson County precious seconds are being lost every time someone calls 911.
Over the last month NewsChannel 5 has obtained at least a dozen phone calls from Wilson County 911 that appear to show an alarming pattern, caller after caller being transferred and forced to repeat vital information in an emergency.
In one call, a woman is calling to report a suspected drunk driver on highway 231 in Lebanon, the first person who picks up the phone when she calls 911 is a call taker at the Wilson County 911 Call Center.
Operator: 911 Where is your emergency?
Caller: We are on 231. This truck is all over the road he’s almost hit three cars!
Operator: Stay on the line and I’ll transfer you to the Sheriff’s office we’ll see if they have a car in the area
The woman on the phone is transferred once to Lebanon Police, then to the Wilson County Sheriff and finally back to Lebanon Police as confusion ensued about the driver’s exact location. Records show that the 911 caller was on the phone for four minutes and six seconds before finally reaching a dispatcher who could help. She was forced to repeat her story four times to four different people.
“I've been transferred like three or four times and I'm worried about people on the road from this guy!” the caller could be heard saying on the audio recording.
Every year approximately 25,000 calls are made to the 911 call center in Wilson County. Of the 94 counties in Tennessee using 911 they are the only ones where calls are not routed directly to a dispatcher.
Anytime someone needs help in Wilson County their call goes first to the 911 call center. Those call takers are not dispatchers, they have no ability to help. All they can do is transfer calls to police, fire, the Wilson County Sheriff, or Wilson County EMA.
“And then we transfer you over and you start your story all over again,” says J.R. Kelley who resigned as the director of Wilson County 911 in April of 2016.
“Maybe in someone's mind it made sense to operate this way but not in today's world, not in today's technology,” he adds.
The decision to run the system this way is up to an 11 member board appointed by the county mayor.
Longtime member David Hale has staunchly opposed upgrading what some law enforcement officials call an outdated and antiquated system.
When asked, “Why is Wilson County is the only county in the state that does it this way?” Hale responded, “Possibly we're the only county in the state that is doing it correctly.”
“I have no political agenda I was put here to serve the people of Wilson County,” Hale added.
Two weeks ago a little boy in Lebanon called 911 after his brother accidentally shot himself. He was forced to repeat his entire story twice after waiting 40 seconds to be transferred to Lebanon Police.
“My brother shot himself. Please hurry,” the boy could be heard saying.
“We were not able to give the young man the attention that he needed,” says interim director Karen Moore.
“We’re going to look at the procedures and we’ve already made changes,” she continued.
Moore admits problems with that call but doesn't think routing calls directly to police or fire agencies will fix things.
“You can say the system doesn't work but I'm telling you call routing is not the answer,” she added.
Every second may count but in Wilson County some say not every second is counting.