New Port Richey, Florida -- While the victims in a Port Richey home invasion were involved in a shootout early Wednesday morning, they tried to call Pasco 911, but the call couldn't be transferred correctly. 10 Investigates has been reporting on problems with the agency for a year.
This latest problem stems from the fact Pasco 911 operators need to pass two certification tests in order to best serve the public. However, not all who answer the emergency call have passed both tests. That means some are legally only able to handle fire calls while others are only able to handle law enforcement.
When a 911 operator answers a call they are not certified to handle they must transfer it.
More problems in Pasco 911. This time in a home invasion where a call could not be transferred to the right person. WTSP
When John Breau called 911 Wednesday morning his emergency was that he, his wife, his baby and mother in law were victims of a home invasion.
"It was pretty scary," he says.
But what else was scary for Breau who had seen his wife pistol whipped and was holding a shotgun in his hand, was that his call couldn't be transferred to the right person.
"That was the second most stressful thing, was the phone call and not being able to get a hold of somebody who could take care of business," he says.
Each time the dispatcher tried to transfer the emergency call to a qualified person a prerecorded message came up saying "If this is an emergency hang up and call 911. Thanks for calling the Pasco County Sheriff's office non-emergency number."
And that prerecorded message about calling 911 came up not once, but twice when the dispatcher who is not qualified in law enforcement in this building was sitting right next to the law enforcement qualified dispatcher but couldn't transfer the call.
"It felt like I was on a customer service call to be honest," Breau says.
We said to Pasco County's Ed Caum this looks like there is another problem with Pasco 911.
However, Caum told us, "I wouldn't say it's a problem."
While Caum wouldn't say there is a problem, he admits the victim couldn't get transferred to the right person. When we pointed out while Breau was on the phone, the 911 operator is saying, 'let me transfer you to law enforcement operator,' because the guy on the phone isn't qualified for law enforcement.
"Correct. What we tried to do was call on an admin line to the 911 line that doesn't work. We have retraining issue there," Caum said.
The agency has had a retraining issue for years as 10 Investigates documented:
- Four supervisors falling asleep on the job,
- A woman choking to death because a supervisor wouldn't help her boyfriend do the Heimlich maneuver,
- Emergency vehicles being sent to the wrong address, and
But head of the agency Dona Fernandes has been downplaying problems.
Fernandes told us in February, "I think it is actually gone very well. However, when we pointed out on the day of the theater shooting there was a two-minute transfer problem." She admitted, "There is a training issue yes."
That was in February and it appears little has changed. The only good news in this incident is that, despite delays in the transfer, deputies were dispatched -- but to the wrong address within a minute and 13 seconds of the first call that was dropped. And they got to the right address four minutes and five seconds after John Breau made the initial call for help.