JOPLIN, MO.--- "Joplin dropped the ball. My house would not have burned down and there are things in my house I can never ever replace," said James Waddell, Joplin homeowner.
In January, Joplin Homeowner James Waddell's home caught fire.
"I was able to get my wife and 1-year-old grandson out. I put the fire out inside the house, went outside the house started fighting the fire and I started talking to 911, and she was telling me that 3215 was not a good address," said Waddell.
Waddell's home address was 3215 Bedford Place. He argued with the dispatcher, saying when his home got annexed into the City of Joplin, the city changed his address from 1067 Bedford Place to 3215 Bedford Place, which he was told to use for 911 emergencies.
"So finally I gave her the 12-year-old address at 1067 Bedford Place and then she says, 'oh no' on the phone, and of course I'm throwing buckets of water on the fire," said Waddell.
Waddell used his cell phone, which caused the closest tower to direct him to Newton County instead of the Joplin dispatch center. This took a fire department about 20 minutes to respond. It was Reddings Mill and then later Joplin showed up. But it was too late, he ended up losing his entire home.
"Fortunately, I was able to save our lives and most of our pets. We lost a couple of cats. You know, when you lose a home it's a traumatic thing. It really is," he said.
Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles says in Waddell's case, it's hard for dispatchers to locate these type of addresses that are on boundary lines.
"It's very hard for dispatchers of police or fire or EMS personnel to know if that one particular home in or out. It does become difficult," said Chief Mitch Randles, Joplin Fire Department.
Chief Randles says the problem is your call could be connected to three different dispatch centers.
"Calls have to be transferred, which takes time and the longer it takes to process a call, the longer it takes to get the emergency service in route to the emergency or to the event," said Chief Randles.
If you are inside the City of Joplin your call should go to the Joplin Dispatch Center.
"If you're outside the City of Joplin, then your call would go either to the Jasper County dispatch center or the Newton County dispatch center, depending on which county you actually live in or are in," said Chief Randles.
Joplin Police Chief Jason Burns says the other problem is if you are calling from a cell phone, like Waddell did.
"When there's no landline, there's no issue. It's going to go where it needs to go. It's where cell phones are more prominent that we're seeing used and that's where the call transfer problem arises," said Jason Burns, Joplin Police Chief.
This is why Joplin is implementing virtual consolidation, allowing them to connect to Jasper County. Now calls can be transferred internally, instead of placing an outside call.
"It being seen in real time by the other agency, therefore cuts down on the transfer of the call time and gets a quicker response," said Chief Burns.
"What we're going to do is we're going to start sending both agencies. So like in this case, it would have been Joplin and Reddings Mill that would have gotten dispatched," said Chief Randles.
This way they can go out and assess the emergency then figure out which jurisdiction it is. Waddell now lives in a new Joplin home, but he still worries for other people that have similar problems he had with his old address.
"I'm afraid that if they have a fire, the same things going to happen," he said.
The police department has ordered the two phones that will help with the virtual consolidation and are ordering three more for next year. Chief Burns says it could take up to several months for the system to be implemented.
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