Contact 17 News: Long distance emergency frustrates Bakersfield woman

Contact 17 News: Long distance emergency frustrates Bakersfield woman

Dispatcher could face discipline accused of telling caller to dial 4-1-1
BAKERSFIELD, CA -- The actions of a Bakersfield dispatcher are under investigation. That's because Linda Tompkins, says she called 9-1-1 to get help for her aunt in Montana, and the dispatcher told her to call information instead.

"It was the most frightening experience. I was physically ill by the time I got off the phone," said Tompkins of the experience.

Tompkins says it happened May 31, 2014. She had called her aunt, in ailing health, in Montana, when the phone went silent.

"And I had said something else and I was waiting on her response and there was no response and I said Aunt Dolores. And I said it like three or four times, Aunt Dolores, and I'm just sitting there holding the phone like, oh my gosh, you know," said Tompkins.

Keeping the land line open with her aunt in Montana, Tompkins says she dialed 9-1-1 with her cell and reached a Bakersfield dispatcher.

"The gal said this is Bakersfield emergency and I have to call 4-1-1. And I said are you serious? I said but it's an emergency. I know it's wrong. I know there is something wrong," said Tompkins.

Tompkins said she called Montana police, the sheriff, and fire with no luck.

"The last time I called to ask for the fire department they were like, hang on the line. You've been selected to win a prize. And, I'm hysterical at this time and I'm thinking,what in the heck, you know," said Tompkins.

In between her attempts to get help in Montana, Tompkins says she'd call 9-1-1 again and reach the same dispatcher three times.

"I said something is wrong. Please can you help me. And I was sobbing. I was hysterical. And she said no, you have to call 4-1-1. And I said I've been trying. And I started crying and she said, well then you just need to settle down so they can understand you when you call," said Tompkins.

Sergeant Joe Grubbs with the Bakersfield Police Department says the dispatcher should have transferred Tompkins to the correct Montana jurisdiction, as they are trained.

"Nine one one dispatchers are here to help people," said Sgt. Grubbs.

Now, the tapes of the call are under review to see if the dispatcher should be disciplined.

"There is no excuse. We should get every call right. But, sometimes things happen and we look at that as a training issue and we try to make corrections as the way we are trained," said Sgt. Grubbs.

Tompkins resorted to calling another relative in Montana to check on her aunt.

They found she had passed out from a new medication and is fine now. It's a scare she hopes won't happen in the future by sharing her story.

"I appreciate them looking into it because it could have been so many different things and turned out so different," said Tompkins.

Sergeant Grubbs says the dispatcher's supervisors will review the tapes to determine what discipline she might receive.
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