Posted by on January 23, 2023 4:47 pm
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Faulty Seattle dispatch system blamed in death of father who waited for 911 help

FILE – Seattle Police officers confer after taking part in a public roll call at Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District Thursday, March 18, 2021. Seattle’s police department is having detectives and non-patrol staff respond to emergency calls because of a shortage of officers union leaders fear will be made worse by COVID-19 vaccine mandates. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) Ted S. Warren/AP

Faulty Seattle dispatch system blamed in death of father who waited for 911 help

Tori Richards January 23, 03:47 PMJanuary 23, 03:47 PM Video Embed

A former Seattle 911 dispatcher is blasting the city for causing the death of a resident who didn’t receive timely aid because paramedics sat outside his home waiting for a police escort.

William Yurek, 45, died of a heart attack in 2021 after his young son called 911 for help. Yurek is the victim of a city that places addresses on a danger list to firefighters and paramedics, who wait for police backup before entering.

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The system is meant to flag occupants or situations that would be hazardous for first responders, including mentally unstable people or firearm possessions.

However, the list is inaccurate and not up to date, so as a result, Yurek died, former call center manager Brian Smith told the Seattle Times. Dispatchers can check criminal databases and not rely on the list, which is kept secret from residents, he added.

Smith said he was harassed and demoted after he tried to fix the problem before Yurek’s death. He had been with the city for 20 years before he resigned, even serving on an advisory board for King County’s 911 systems from 2017 to 2021.

“The community member died in front of his child,” Smith said in a resignation letter. “This likely would not have happened had you listened to my concerns.”

Smith has filed a claim for damages because he was harassed, demoted, and suspended “in retaliation for reporting and speaking out against my manager’s actions and decisions that created a public safety risk.”

Yurek’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city this month, saying he would have likely survived if paramedics were not told to wait for entry.

“These electronic records have a high degree of inaccuracy, are effectively hidden from public disclosure,” Smith told the Seattle Times. He added that erroneous information exists more often with low-income residents because they move more often.

Seattle has a total of 1,678 caution notes among 282,000 addresses in a police dispatcher system and 3,151 notes in 211,735 locations with the Fire Department.

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The Seattle Fire Department revised its policies in November, saying the notes should expire within a year unless they are renewed.

A police spokesperson said the department was “exploring options to ensure system notes are regularly reviewed.”

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