Dereliction of Duty

Dereliction of Duty

by James R. Campbell

Another trend is emerging in our society that has disturbing implications for all of us. There have been several reports on mainstream news networks that deal with the failure of some workers at emergency call centers.

Image @ Wikimedia
Image @ Wikimedia

When a person calls 911 in a real emergency, they are doing so because they are in dire need of help from paramedics. The operator who takes the call is trained to ask appropriate questions to access the injured person’s condition. What injury does the person have? How serious is it? What is the heart rate and blood pressure? What preexisting medical conditions does the individual in question have? Are there any allergies to medications?

These questions are very important, if the EMTs don’t know, then they run the risk of making mistakes that could prove lethal.

The cases we have heard of that involve emergency operators hanging up on callers are few, and far between. Be that as it may, the fact that this happens at all is a threat that must be dealt with. One 911 operator in Houston hung up on callers because she didn’t feel like talking to them. As of yet, we don’t know of any serious problems that resulted from her actions, but I would not be surprised if there were reports of such occurrences.

The stiffest punishment this woman could receive is a two year stent in jail. This is all the law allows for hanging up on callers when there is a legitimate need for help.

In an emergency, seconds count. When an operator hangs up on a caller, that results in the loss of precious time that could mean the difference between life and death. As I see it, any operator who hangs up on a caller is running the risk of loss of life, and that amounts to accessory to negligent homicide by omission. Two years in jail isn’t nearly enough when a person has life-threatening injuries that could prove fatal if help doesn’t arrive in time.

I do understand the other side of the coin; there are those who call 911 for minor emergencies, or in cases where no emergency exists at all. People who do this are just as guilty as the operators who hang up on callers. Prank calls tie up resources that are direly needed for real emergencies; people who suffer from trauma can’t wait for help. They have a golden hour, time that is lost because of prank calls to emergency call centers. Here again, the penalties are not tough enough. Two years in jail isn’t fitting, these are acts that are far more serious than most people realize.

I remember the night the paramedics took me to the hospital after I got hit by a truck. They were professional, they were very kind. The emergency room doctors treated me for life-threatening injuries, and my ER nurse was very helpful. If I called her at the hospital and bothered her when she was taking care of a patient, in my eyes, that would be cardinal; it just isn’t done. Yet we have people who do it every day, without a second’s thought for the consequences to others.

We must make sure that those on both sides of the fence are punished severely. More than anything, these people need time to reflect, and incarceration is the only means of providing them a place that affords the best chance for the introspection they are sorely lacking. This is our only hope. As always, Thanks for your time.

With Loving Kindness,

About the Author

James R. Campbell, 61, is poet and writer living with total blindness. He has a Bachelor’s in psychology. He has written articles for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine and Consumervision. A a member of Behind our Eyes, Campbell has three poem collections on CD. They can be downloaded at In his free time, he likes cooking, playing harmonica, reptiles, and keeping up with current events.

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