Call shows importance of 911

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My Views

By Stephen Thomas

    MOUNT WASHINGTON - It obviously could’ve been much worse.

    Kaitlyn Yates, 13, is babysitting her two younger siblings on Spring Break and finds a would-be burglar in her kitchen.

    After a quick call to her mother Kaitlyn called 9-1-1. Kaitlyn did the right thing.

    According to the experts, she also did it very well.

    Bullitt County Dispatch supervisor Carla Johnson praised Kaitlyn for offering vital information that helped dispatchers and police help her.

    Johnson said Kaitlyn told her street name, spelled it, said which street it ran off of, and gave a description of the suspect, including size and clothing.

    “The most important info is location,” said Johnson. “If all else fails, if we get disconnected, we have the address.”

    The other important thing Kaitlyn did was remain calm. Dispatcher Amber Allen made certain that Kaitlyn kept her emotions in check.

    “(Dispatchers) get such raw emotion, at its worst,” said Johnson. “That’s what they deal with every day. They have to keep calm. The public just does not understand the stress that these dispatchers go through. And that was just one of many calls that day.”

    Four dispatchers work each shift with a designated emergency agency they are responsible to contact. One answers the 9-1-1 calls; one controls the police channel. The workers rotate positions every two hours.

    “People envision them answering the phone, calling an agency, that’s it,” said Johnson. “It’s much more. They stay on the line, call multiple agencies, organize it all. When it’s busy it’s busy, it’s not like on TV.”

    Johnson credited Kaitlyn for “proving what she could do” while Allen called her “a perfect caller.”

    “Kaitlyn did such a great job,” said Allen. “I wish everyone reacted this way. We never heard any of the kids in the background.”

    Allen echoed Johnson’s advice for callers in potential emergency situations: stay calm, give the best location or address, including surroundings if possible, and remain on the phone with the dispatcher, following advice.

    “We’re not the ones coming but we’re in contact with the ones that are,” she said.

    Mount Washington Police were able to apprehend the man that broke into Kaitlyn’s home within a matter of minutes. At one point a truck was spotted outside the home. Kaitlyn was able to let the officers know, through the dispatchers, that the truck did not belong there.

    MWPD Chief Roy Daugherty credited dispatchers for keeping the children calm and in communication. He also credited Kaitlyn for her description of the suspect.

    “In that situation you need to remember descriptions as much as possible,” said Daugherty. “(Dispatchers) are trained to ask questions and relay that information to us.”

    Kaitlyn potentially saved the lives of herself and her siblings. The burglar may have been violent, or he may have fled when he realized someone was there.

    Remaining calm on the phone, listening to the dispatcher, following advice and sharing information were among the things Kaitlyn did well. They are things that would be best during any emergency phone call.

    Obviously it’s not easy to remember everything in an emergency, whether you’re a 13-year-old, a police officer or even a newspaper journalist. Below are some tips to consider and keep in mind in case of any future emergency situations:

    - Remain calm, speak clearly, supply a location and surroundings, answer the dispatcher’s questions with words (they can’t see you), remain on the phone and follow the dispatcher’s instructions. If you can’t speak, leave the phone off the hook after calling.

    - Try to let the dispatcher know which room in the house or which area, how long the event has taken place, whether there are any weapons involved and which direction a fleeing suspect may have headed (by foot or by vehicle).

    - Descriptions of the suspect: gender, race, age, height, weight, hair color and length, clothing, facial hair or glasses.

    - If a suspect has a vehicle, offer a make and model, color and license plate number if possible.