Misdirected 9-1-1 Call, Language Barrier Causes Delayed Response to Fatal Fire

The fire broke out on the 600 block of Stirling Avenue in Lakewood, just after 2 a.m. on Friday.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Police say a misdirected 9-1-1 call and a language barrier delayed firefighters to extinguish the flames of a deadly fire in Lakewood Township. NBC10's Ted Greenberg reports. (Published Monday, Jan 7, 2013)

    A misdirected 9-1-1 call and a language barrier are being blamed for the delayed response to a fire that claimed the life of a 6-year-old boy and left his 8-year-old brother in critical condition.

    • LISTEN TO 9-1-1 CALL

    The fire broke out on the 600 block of Stirling Avenue in Lakewood, just after 2 a.m. on January 4. Investigators say it accidentally started in the kitchen of the home. When a woman hysterically called 9-1-1 to report the fire, Lakewood Police say a combination of factors slowed down the emergency response. 

    Officials say the 9-1-1 call came from a cell phone that provided no address. Investigators believe the call was initially misdirected by a cell tower to a dispatch center in the neighboring Howell Township, Monmouth County before it was transferred to Lakewood. Police also say the woman who reported the fire spoke with a heavy accent.

    “Our dispatchers thought she said it was 644 Somerset Avenue when in fact they later found it at 644 Stirling Avenue,” said Captain Paul Daly of the Lakewood Police.

    Due to the confusion, investigators say there was a seven minute delay between when the 9-1-1 call was made to when officials arrived at the correct location.

    “Those few things together caused a delay in our locating of the scene,” said Captain Daly.

    “Could the outcome have been different if the call went directly to Lakewood?” asked NBC10’s Ted Greenberg.

    “Possibly yes,” answered Captain Daly.

    If you call 9-1-1 from your cellphone, emergency responders say it’s crucial that you clearly tell the operator your specific location, including the town you’re in. It’s also important that you stay on the line and state the nature of your emergency.