Man Dies After 911 Call Dismissed As Pocket Dial

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The 911 dispatch center in Fredericksburg, Virginia is under internal investigation for failing to respond to a man’s call hours before he died of heart disease. According to a report in Fox News, 56-year-old Robert Paulus called the centre on April 23rd 2016 from his apartment in Fredericksburg, but was unable to speak. Due to this, the center assumed the call was a pocket dial and hung up. They didn’t call back or send anyone to check on the caller. 

A recording of the 18 second call has been published online by The Washington Post. The recording shows that a woman picked up Paulus’s call but hung up after getting no response after three attempts.

The incident was not a failure of the 911 system according to a spokeswoman for the Fredericksburg Police Department, Sarah Kirkpatrick, who has called it an ‘oversight’. Daily Mail reports that Kirkpatrick said the police department is taking the matter ‘very seriously by opening an internal investigation.’

I think this was an oversight. I think the police department is taking it very seriously by opening an internal investigation.

According to a report in Fredericksburg Today, the 911 line gets an average of 12 pocket dials a day. Describing what happened, Kirkpatrick went on to mention it happens ‘daily in the call center,’ saying the communications officer stayed on the line ‘ for an appropriate amount of time.’

One of our communications officers answered the call and, over a course of 24-seconds, attempted three times to make contact with the caller. The communications officer did not hear any breathing, movement, or noise for her to believe that the caller was in distress. She therefore assumed it was a pocket dial, which happens daily in the call center. After staying on the line for an appropriate amount of time and not hearing anything alarming, the communications officer initiated the hang-up.

The investigation is underway because a family member found that the last call Paulus made at 11:46 p.m. on April 23 right before dying was to 911. Michael Paulus, the deceased’s son has called the attempt to call a ‘final cry for help.’

There was one final cry for help and nobody responded

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