I-TEAM: Family demands answers after confusion during 911 call leads to delayed response

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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — A retired local police officer died after a medical emergency, and the FOX 8 I-TEAM is investigating the response to the 9-1-1 call.

Retired Brooklyn Heights officer Dennis Derbin’s family called for help there, but a regional dispatch center sent help from Seven Hills more than four miles away.

We reviewed the 9-1-1 calls, dispatch radio traffic, and other documents.

On the initial 9-1-1 call, a dispatcher asks, “What City?” The caller says, “Brooklyn Heights.” And the dispatcher says, “Stay on the line for Brooklyn Heights.”

The call is transferred to another dispatcher who asks, “911, where is your emergency?” The caller answers “Brooklyn Heights please.” And, she adds, “Belmont Drive, Brooklyn Heights.”

In fact, that dispatcher then confirms, “Belmont?” And, the caller reinforces, “Yes, Brooklyn Heights. Not Seven Hills.”

Dawn Derbin, the officer’s daughter, broke into tears talking about it.

“My mom gave them the exact location. Clearly spelled it out. And, they didn’t listen,” she said.

Records show the response time was 14 minutes.

Chagrin Valley Dispatch says one side of the street is Brooklyn Heights and one side is Seven Hills, except for the home of Dennis Derbin.

His home is considered part of Brooklyn Heights, even though it is on the Seven Hills side.

The dispatch center says call takers rely on a county address guide and the guide lists the home in Seven Hills.

In an email Chagrin Valley Dispatch said, “We use the MSAG (Master Street Address Guide) which is provided to us by Cuyahoga County.  This is more or less the bible for communication centers as it lists which addresses belong to each municipality.“

The family also called Brooklyn Heights fire directly. The headquarters station just two miles away. Dawn Derbin had even worked there before as a paramedic.

The Brooklyn Heights Fire Department tells the I-TEAM a supervisor there had already heard Seven Hills rescuers getting sent to the call. Brooklyn Heights fire did not get an official dispatch and did not go.

In an email from the Brooklyn Heights Fire Department, the assistant chief wrote, “The aforementioned call was received by a firefighter who reported that the female requested Brooklyn Heights to respond to the location as we were “closer” to the incident. This firefighter immediately relayed this information to his supervisor who had been listening to the radio traffic and was aware that the Seven Hills fire department had been in response to the incident for approximately ten (10) minutes at the time of the call. The supervisor subsequently heard that the Seven Hills units had arrived on the scene and were initiating patient care.”

Dawn Derbin also did CPR trying to keep him alive waiting for emergency crews.

Now, she’s calling for changes in how the 9-1-1 system is set up.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody. If this happened to my mom or me this way, my dad would be fighting,” she said.

She also points out a 9-1-1 call had been made from the home several months ago, but the information about the address still lists it as part of Seven Hills.

The family wonders if precious time could have been saved? Could a life have been saved?

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