Chaotic' Scene at 911 Call Center


Ken Sugiura | | Thursday, May 15, 2008

ATLANTA -- Because of a computer network crash, more than 10 minutes passed from the time the Gwinnett County (Ga.) 911 call center was first alerted that a tree had fallen on a 19-year-old woman to the time paramedics were dispatched to the scene, according to a police report.

On Wednesday, the Gwinnett Medical Examiner's Office said that even if Astrid Hidalgo had received immediate medical help on Sunday, it was "highly unlikely" that she would have survived because of the extent of her injuries.

She died when a tree apparently snapped in high winds and fell on her as she was walking toward the entrance of her sister's Duluth apartment complex.

According to Chief Forensic Investigator Ted Bailey, Hidalgo had "severe internal injuries" and internal bleeding. The autopsy findings did little to console Hidalgo's father, Mayro Hidalgo.

Had paramedics arrived while Astrid was still conscious, "It would have made a big difference because we wouldn't have thought no one was there," he said. "We would have thought at least someone was there and they did what they could for her and we accept it."

A Gwinnett police department report released Wednesday lent insight into the 30-minute period that began when the county government's computer network went down at 4:30 p.m., taking down the 911 call center's computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software with it.

The radio system went down at the same time, coming back up five minutes later. The CAD system did not return for 5 1/2 hours.

In the ensuing minutes, as 911 center employees were trying to set up their manual back-up system, "they were getting inundated with calls," Gwinnett police Cpl. and spokeswoman Illana Spellman said. She further described the scene as "chaotic."

The first call concerning Hidalgo came at 4:38 p.m., according to the report, but the line disconnected before the call taker could get the location of the accident. Two minutes later, another 911 caller provided the apartment complex address. That call ended at 4:44 p.m.

A firetruck and ambulance were dispatched at 4:51. They arrived at 4:57 p.m. By that time, Hidalgo had died.

According to the report, from the time that the 911 center identified a call coming from 2200 Satellite Blvd. to the time that paramedics were dispatched, 11 minutes and 40 seconds elapsed.

"Everyone did the best job they could do with what they had to work with," Spellman said. "It's not anyone's fault."


Here's the sequence of events that occurred Sunday.

4:30 p.m. --- A county government computer network switch fails, causing the radio and computer-aided dispatch systems to crash.

4:35 p.m. --- The radio system returns.

4:37 p.m. --- A medical call for an emergency on Buford Drive.

4:38 p.m. --- A call requesting help because a tree has fallen on someone. The call disconnects after 19 seconds. The call taker calls the number back but gets a recording.

4:38 p.m. --- Another call for the emergency on Buford Drive.

4:39 p.m. --- A call from 2200 Satellite Blvd., where the tree had fallen on Astrid Hidalgo, disconnects before any communication is made. When the call taker makes a return call, nobody picks up. This generates a police call to dispatch an officer.

4:40 p.m. --- A call from 2200 Satellite Blvd. requests help for a tree that fell on a person and provides the address to the 911 center.

4:41 p.m. --- A call advising that a tree had fallen on a woman.

4:43 p.m. --- Police are dispatched to 2200 Satellite Blvd. in response to the disconnected call.

4:43 p.m. --- Another call from 2200 Satellite Blvd. This one is longer and more informative and states that the victim is conscious but not alert.

4:45 p.m. --- The fire department dispatchers attempt to locate units to dispatch to the Buford Drive emergency that was called in at 4:37 p.m., requiring three minutes to do so.

4:51 p.m. --- Police arrive at 2200 Satellite Blvd.

4:51 p.m. --- A firetruck and ambulance are dispatched to 2200 Satellite Blvd.

4:51 p.m. --- Police on scene report that Hidalgo is not responding and requests an ambulance.

4:54 p.m. --- Police advise that Hidalgo is not responsive with the belief that she has died.

4:57 p.m. --- Firetruck and ambulance arrive.

Source: Gwinnett County Police Department

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