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Lee County, Sanford At Odds Over 911 Service

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In about half the counties in North Carolina, dispatchers cannot do anything but send help when you call 911. A more sophisticated system that could save lives is on hold in Lee County, while leaders argue about how to pay for it.

911 dispatchers in Lee County can send an ambulance to your home, but they cannot tell you how to perform CPR while you wait. The dispatchers are not trained to use emergency medical dispatch scripts (EMDS) to walk callers through life-saving procedures.

That news is not sitting well with residents.

"I'd be disappointed, really disappointed," resident Belinda Clegg said.

"I think it's crazy. They should be able to know. If somebody's dying, they should be able to tell you what to do," resident Jamie Studly said.

Lee County does not use EMD because it has such a small staff. Sometimes, there is only one dispatcher working, and EMD requires someone to stay on the phone.

"You could have numerous dispatch calls for police, fire or any kind of medical emergency, and you would have no one else to dispatch that call," Sanford City Manager Leonard Barefoot said.

There is also a dispute over how and who should pay for it. Lee County contracts with the city of Sanford for 911 service. The city wants the county to hire two more dispatchers, so it can train the staff to use EMD. City officials say the county has not responded to that request.

The Lee County Manager said he needs firm numbers from the city about what it would cost. He also said the county has a million-dollar budget shortfall and might not be able to spend the money right now.