During an emergency situation, we have the 911 hotline to talk to helpful operators who can bring help to the location and help lighten up the situation. However, what happened in Arkansas became a heated topic for debate. People are wondering why the 911 operator acted the way she did towards the scared and panicked woman on the line.
Debbie Stevens was on the line with a 911 operator after she drove into floodwaters. She called for help right away before she started to drown.
According to the police spokesperson, Aric Mitchell, Donna Reneau dispatched emergency personnel on a Friday to help find Stevens who had driven into an apartment complex parking lot to try to avoid the flood.
Stevens who was panicking spend the last scary moments of her life on the phone with Reneau, only to be dismissed and ridiculed!
Stevens was out on August 24th to deliver newspapers when the floodwaters swept away her car. She dialed 911 to ask for help. When Reneau answered, instead of helping Stevens calm down and reassuring her that help is on the way, she returned the panic with heartless mockery.
The Fort Smith Police Department released the audio recordings of what transpired during Steven’s 911 call.
Stevens: “Please help me. I don’t wanna die.”
Reneau: “You’re not going to die – hold on for a minute.”
Stevens: “Well I need um, I’m scared. I’m sorry.”
Reneau: “I understand that you’re scared but there’s nothing I can do sitting in a chair so you’re going to have to hold on and I’m going to send you somebody, OK?”
The scared woman was already on the phone for 24 minutes and the car was starting to be filled up with water. Instead of helping her calm down, this is what Reneau said:
Reneau: “You’re not going to die. I don’t know why you’re freaking out. It’s OK. I know the water level is high.”
Stevens: “I’m scared. I’m sorry.”
Reneau: “I understand that but you freaking out – doing nothing but losing your oxygen up in there so calm down.”
When Stevens asked her how long will the emergency people get to her location, this is what Reneau had to say:
“As soon as they get there.”
The police and firefighters responded to the scene around 12 minutes after Stevens dialed 911. However, it took them more than an hour to reach her. By the time that they arrived, she’s gone. Her body was removed from her SUV in a creek nearby. The camera footage also showed that the flooded area had several feet of water.
The last moments of her life, Steven was probably shaking in fear but was still hopeful that someone would come to help her. Instead, Reneau did nothing to help her. Their last conversation went this way:
Stevens: “I’m scared. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before.”
Reneau: “This will teach you next time don’t drive in the water.”
Stevens: “Couldn’t see it ma’am. I’m sorry or I wouldn’t have.”
Reneau: “I don’t see how you didn’t see it. You had to go right over it, so.”
According to Danny Baker, the interim police chief, he understands the outrage. He also explained that Reneau had already turned in her two week’s notice when Steven’s call came in on her during her last shift. Baker is still not sure why Steven’s call was not made a top priority. He said that the dispatcher probably did not realize the severity of the situation.
Unfortunately, Baker insisted that the dispatcher wouldn’t have been fired. He said that Reneau did nothing criminally wrong and could not be considered to be violating a policy.