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Sheriff Defends Maine 9-1-1 Dispatchers

LEWISTON, Maine -- Androscoggin County (Maine) Sheriff Guy Desjardins on Wednesday defended 911 dispatchers handling of two medical calls from Livermore Falls this month after he listened to one of the tapes.

Desjardins said he plans to bring the tapes to Town Manager Martin Puckett and police Chief Ernest Steward so they can hear what was said.

At Tuesday night's selectmen's meeting, two people complained about the county's dispatching service. One said it took more than 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at a home where a man was down Jan. 13.

Desjardins said he reviewed the tape of that call Wednesday and heard the dispatcher ask a distraught woman questions she was unable to answer. A man then got on the phone and was able to give necessary information to the dispatcher, and an ambulance was dispatched, he said. The ambulance arrived in less than 4 1/2 minutes, and the man is heard on the tape as saying it arrived, Desjardins said.

The sheriff said the dispatcher handled the call well, and he could understand why it would feel like more than 15 minutes.

Nelson Hurd also complained at Tuesday's meeting, saying his daughter had collapsed Jan. 19 at her home and her neighbor reported it on her own portable phone she had with her. He said that dispatchers did not listen to the neighbor.

Desjardins said he hasn't listened to that taped 911 call, but he will. He said he could understand why there would be confusion because the call was made on a neighbor's phone and the dispatcher's screen would show the neighbor's address, not the actual location of the emergency.

Maine law requires that any 911 medical emergency calls made directly to the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department dispatch center be handled there because it is one of a number of licensed public safety answering points statewide.

Livermore Falls dispatch center is in the process of being licensed, but if it does get 911 medical calls on its direct line its certified dispatchers are allowed to handle them.

Desjardins said he learned about the complaints when contacted by the the Sun Journal on Wednesday to get his response. He called the town manager Wednesday, he said, and told Puckett he planned to make copies of the tapes of the two calls and bring them to Livermore Falls so he and Steward could hear what happened.

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