Local News


911: Leaders demand answers to call delays

Posted at 10:45 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-06 14:30:52-05

For the last two days, Contact 13 has exposed problems with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's 911 system. 

Callers like Debbie, who asked us not to use her last name, were in a state of emergency, but kept on hold.  In her case, it was her husband who needed help.

"I ran in there and he was on the floor of the shower. And I kept trying to pull at his arm -- Steve! Steve! Get up!"

Steve died Dec. 17 as help was on hold for Debbie and others trying to get through to 911. 

The Contact 13 report generated outrage and calls for action from local leaders.

"I watched the story twice," said County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. "I was shocked, devastated, disappointed."

The day Debbie's husband died, she and her neighbors kept calling 911 for help. And their calls kept getting put on hold.

Darcy Spears: When you first called and you got that recorded voice, clearly you're in a panic. What are you thinking when you hear that?
Debbie: To be honest, I thought they were gonna answer.  When they didn't and I had to go get another phone, I thought what am I gonna do?!  Why aren't they answering?!"

"When you're in that situation that you desperately need support from the 911 system, that needs to be handled immediately," Sisolak said.  "And that doesn't mean getting put on hold, waiting for 60 seconds or two minutes or three minutes for that to happen.  It's not acceptable.  It has to be improved."

LVMPD's 911 radio systems director says there were only 6 call-takers handling 62 calls in the 15-minute window of time surrounding Debbie's emergency.  But Sisolak says that's no excuse.

"There's no justification for it.  There were -- my understanding -- some internal mistakes that were made along the way."

Sisolak, who also sits on LVMPD's Fiscal Affairs Committee, says it's not a funding issue. There's plenty of money and people to properly staff 911.

"I don't know if it was that day, they gave -- too many people were off -- i don't know what could have possibly happened."

He also says high call volume should trigger a rollover to partner agencies.

"For some reason that didn't happen. I mean, the supervisor should stop supervising and pick up the phone and answer some of those calls when that happens!  I think they're well aware of the situation that happened, mistakes that were made and I'm confident that the sheriff has told me this is his number one priority and we're gonna get this fixed so that never happens again and no other family has to go through what these folks are going through."

Commissioner Sisolak says the sheriff promised a full investigation as to why there weren't enough people to answer calls the day Debbie lost her husband, and why the hold times didn't trigger a rollover to the other agencies. 

We'll have an update when they have answers.