A sad and disturbing article in the Houston Chronicle today that reinforces 911 is an important tool, but not one to be relied upon solely:
College student Brittany Zimmermann, 21, called Madison, Wisconsin 911 from her cell phone on April 2.
Dane County Public Safety Communications Director Joseph Norwick said the dispatcher who received the call from Zimmermann's cell phone inquired several times to determine whether an emergency existed.
The dispatcher either didn't get a satisfactory answer, or got no answer at all, and decided to hang up, not call back (against policy, by the way), and did not send police to investigate.
Authorities refused to release the content of the phone call, but [Madison Police Chief Noble] Wray said it should have been enough for the Dane County 911 Center to take it seriously. "It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call, which should have resulted in a Madison police officer being dispatched," Wray said at a news conference. "The 911 center did not call back to the telephone number, Madison police were not notified and no officer was sent."
Brittany Zimmermann was later found by her fiance in the apartment they shared. She was dead. The cause of death was "a complexity of traumatic injuries."
Police believe that the act of violence may have been random, that someone broke into her apartment before killing her. They have not identified a suspect but have ruled out her boyfriend.
We may never hear the content of this 911 call, but it presents another chilling reminder that self-reliance has to come first. If emergency services has time to dispatch, and if the operator understands that there really is an emergency, 911 is an excellent tool.
But to paraphrase the familiar saying: "When seconds count, you can't rely on help that is minutes away."