San Diego

Family of Mauled Baby Waited 3 Min for 911 to Answer: PD

The family dialed 911 twice: the couple waited 28 seconds for an answer and later called again, waiting 31 seconds

The family of an infant mauled to death by the family dog waited 3 minutes and 10 seconds for a 911 dispatcher to receive one of its calls, San Diego police confirmed exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego. 

"There’s no question that there were delays during that time period," SDPD Lt. Scott Wahl said. "In the half hour in which they were calling, we received 73 911 calls and 50 non-emergency calls."

The family dialed 911 twice, according to police. The couple waited 28 seconds before hanging up and calling back, then waited another 31 seconds before hanging up again.

Dispatch received a call placed by the family after a 3 minute and 10 second wait time, according to an incident report confirmed exclusively to NBC7. Wahl, however, said the notes in the report are unclear.

Wahl said it may have taken 3 minutes for dispatch to return the couple's first 911 call after they hung up, or another call may have come in through a different dispatch center, like California Highway Patrol, while the family was on the road or at the hospital.

The 3-day-old baby died after being bitten in the head April 21 by the family dog, Polo. According to an autopsy report, Polo was in bed with his owners and the newborn when the baby's mother suddenly coughed.

Polo bit the baby in the head in what the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office has called an accident. The family decided to euthanize the dog Wednesday morning.

The baby's death has highlighted severe staffing shortages in dispatch.

Photos from dispatch show 10-minute and 5-minute waits for 911 calls to be answered.

"It does happen," Wahl said. "There are unfortunate times when we’ve got extremely high call volume when we’re going to have those outlets and we’re doing everything we can to eliminate them."

Wall said hang-up calls compound 911 wait times, and accidental calls make up nearly an approximate third of the total call volume.

"Every police officer, firefighter, paramedic, lifeguard, we all want to get to emergency situations as quickly as we possibly can," Wall said. "When you call 911, the best thing you can do is stay on the line and resist that natural tendency that we all have — to hang up when you don’t get through right away."

Wall said issues like graffiti, stolen items and reports of theft should be reported on the non-emergency lines.

"By no means do we want to discourage people from calling 911 if there’s an emergency," Wall said. "What we want people to understand is that if they don’t need a police officer, a firefighter or a paramedic there immediately, to provide life saving measures, then we want them to call 531-2000."

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