911 Dispatch Error Delays Pittsburgh Firefighters


Allegheny County Emergency Operations officials said a mistake by a 911 operator caused a nearly four minute delay in the response by firefighters to a house fire on Pittsburgh's North Side.

Emergency Services Director Robert Full said the operator's mistake caused a dispatcher to send firefighters to Overlook Court on Washington's Landing on Tuesday, instead of Overlook Street, where flames were raging out of control inside a house.

All of the people inside the home were able to escape the flames, which did $30,000 in damage. Two dogs died in the fire.

The county's emergency operations chief said the person who took the call has been suspended.

"It is human error, and even though you want to say its human error, it's their job and we will hold them accountable for that job," said Allegheny Co. Emergency Services Director Bob Full. “If (the dispatcher) would have just put in ‘street,’ we would not be talking here today. So, totally unacceptable. We have taken immediate action with the employee.”

Full said the case was “extraordinarily frustrating” and that reminders have been sent out cautioning employees to be mindful of similar addresses and street names.

It was the second time since the summer that the 911 dispatch center botched an emergency call from Overlook Street, Parson reported. In August, a call for a choking victim on Overlook Street was entered as "Overlook Drive" in Squirrel Hill, causing a 13 minute delay. That choking victim recovered.

The city fire department said in this latest case, the four minute delay did not cause any additional damage.

However family members involved in the Overlook fire spoke to Channel 4 Action News' Jim Parsons and said they blame the dispatch error for the extent of the damage.

“They should have been here right on time, and had the streets right,” said Timothy Arnold, who visited his aunt’s house on Overlook Street on Thursday.

Arnold said he was trying to salvage whatever he could from the home, but said he thought the lost time contributed to the dogs’ deaths.

“That's what I think made the dogs die. Maybe if they were here earlier, the dogs wouldn't have died,” said Arnold.

Arnold’s family has hired a lawyer.

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