A Maryland woman who was expecting help when she called 911 was instead met with silence.
Just after midnight on April 4, the Montgomery County woman called 911 because her husband was having trouble breathing and was starting to turn blue.
Following protocol, a 911 call-taker answered and quickly transferred the woman to a dispatcher.
He was supposed to send an ambulance, but in the 911 recording all you can hear is silence in response to the woman’s repeated hellos. Realizing something isn’t right, the original call-taker breaks in.
Moments later light snoring can be heard from the dispatcher, who had fallen asleep. The snores get louder as a new dispatcher tries to help the woman.
“The employee was immediately removed from the floor by his supervisor that night and placed on administrative leave with pay pending the inquiry,” Montgomery County Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham said.
According to Graham, the sleeping dispatcher is an experienced uniformed firefighter who was 17 hours into a 24-hour overtime shift.
Montgomery County dispatchers work twice as long as other dispatchers in the D.C. area.
Jeffrey Buddle is the Vice President of the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1664, which represents firefighter dispatchers.
Buddle said while a 24-hour shift “may seem like a long shift to someone who’s not used to that schedule, it’s something that’s just normal for a firefighter to work.”
Both he and Graham say this is the first time someone has fallen asleep during a 24-hour shift.
In the recording, the second dispatcher and the woman he was trying to help are both confused by the snoring.
The second dispatcher repeatedly asked if the woman’s husband was making the noise.
Graham confirmed to NBC News it is instead the original dispatcher.
At least 18 snores can be heard on the recording before the sleeping dispatcher woke up, not realizing the woman had been on the line for more than four minutes.
Graham said the patient was transported to a hospital and did not have any “adverse effects as a result of the call.”
He said 911 dispatchers are now working in a renovated call center where a supervisor can now see all of the dispatchers.
The county, he said, now hopes this will prevent anyone from falling asleep.
As for the issue of 24-hour shifts, it could come up this fall when the new collective bargaining agreement goes into negotiations.