Local News

Durham 911 dispatcher fired

Posted August 28, 2009 2:31 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2009 6:07 p.m. EDT

— A Durham emergency dispatcher has been fired for not following procedure during a 911 call earlier this month that delayed response to a fatal fire.

Marvin Jacobs, 74, died in the Aug. 17 fire at 110 Shantercliff Place.

In a 911 recording of the call, the dispatcher, Theresa Hopkins, repeatedly asks an unidentified female caller for the address of the fire.

James Soukup, director of the Durham Emergency Communications, said that an investigation into what happened showed that Hopkins failed to follow procedure by not keeping the caller on the phone and not asking follow-up questions when she was unsure of the address.

That could have included inquiring about nearby intersections or a phone number that could have been traced.

Soukop also said that all the emergency equipment at the 911 center was working properly when the call came in but that an issue with the caller's telephone provider, Vonage, caused the address not to display on the 911 system.

That and Hopkins' failure to get the information caused a delay of 4 minutes and 32 seconds, Soukup said.

Hopkins was terminated on Thursday.

Charlie Sahner, a Vonage spokesman, said the company is investigating the details surrounding Jacobs' death "but has nothing substantive yet to report."

Investigators said they believe the fire started inside a vehicle Jacobs had been working on that evening. Authorities have said there was no foul play involved.

Durham authorities said Jacobs was the only person in the house at the time of the fire.

Although his cause of death hasn't been determined, they said it appeared to be consistent with someone who was overtaken by smoke.