Charleston County: Miscommunication leads to medical response delay

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - We have new information on a toddler who drowned in Summerville. Charleston County says miscommunication led to a delay in crews getting to an emergency scene.

A neighbor from the Summer Park subdivision called 911 last Friday when 2-year-old Sia Jarvis was found in a retention pond. Dorchester County EMS was already on the way to the hospital with the girl before Charleston County, the agency in charge of responding, even arrived.

At first, the emergency call went to Summerville's 911 Center:

Dispatch: A baby that, is he drowned?

Caller: Um, she's not breathing right now.

Dispatch: Okay I'm going to patch you through to first responders in Dorchester County, hold on the line okay? Are you in Dorchester or Charleston?

Caller: Charleston.

Dispatch: Hold on for Charleston County.

A supervisor for Summerville's 911 Center says they followed protocol and sent out police and fire crews, and then transferred the call to the Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center.

When Live 5 News reviewed a copy of the 911 call, we learned it was nearly four minutes before that particular call taker asked if the two-year-old was breathing.

Charleston County says up until that point, the only information given to their dispatcher from the caller was that there was a baby in the water, so the dispatcher processed the call as a water rescue, not a drowning needing medical attention.

"We didn't receive any information from that transferring agency. Typically when an agency receives a 911 call to another agency, they will announce that transfer to let you know this is whatever agency transferring the call and this is the situation that has occurred," Charleston County 911 Consolidated Dispatch Center Deputy Director Allyson Burrell said.

She says because Summerville's dispatcher didn't tell them a child wasn't breathing and because the caller didn't mention it at first, there was a delay in Charleston County's response.

"The caller had no reason at that point to believe at that point that we didn't know a little bit about what was going on. She had already told Summerville some of the information, basically that there had been a drowning, the baby was not breathing, and when she was transferred to us. I'm assuming that she made the assumption we already knew. She would have no reason to think otherwise," Burrell said.

Charleston County's deputy director also said that the dispatcher switched to a medical protocol when she found out the baby was not breathing, and she remained on the phone until the caller told her EMT's had arrived. Burrell says the dispatcher followed all of Charleston County's emergency response protocols, given the information she had at the time.

Summerville's 911 Center says they also followed their protocols, to send out police and fire crews and connect the caller to Charleston County for EMS assistance.

Charleston County says there is a national best practice standard that says the dispatchers of one agency should stay on the line during a transfer and all important information is relayed.

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