Fort Worth

Fort Worth Mother's Desperate Call to 911 Went Unanswered

Police chief says understaffing in 911 center is a problem the city is urgently trying to fix

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A Fort Worth mother is sounding the alarm about staffing issues in the Fort Worth 911 call center after her daughter stopped breathing, she called the emergency number – and nobody answered.

"Honestly I thought my baby was dying in my arms,” Jamie Haswell.

Haswell called 911 last Wednesday night when she noticed her 2-year-old daughter Mila wasn't breathing and her lips had turned blue.

"It just went to a recording,” she said. “And my initial thought was I'm not doing this right. I've never called 911 before. I thought it would be a person answering the phone."

Panicked, she ran outside, screaming, trying to get anyone in her North Fort Worth Heritage neighborhood to help.

They rushed out and tried calling 911 too but couldn't get an answer either.

"One person had a call back about 12 minutes later,” Haswell said. “Another person it was 14 minutes later."

After the lack of response from 911, she and Mila hopped in a neighbor's car and rushed to the hospital themselves.

"At no point should a Fort Worth resident make a phone call to 911 and that phone call not get answered by 911,” said city council member Cary Moon. "I think we will see this is more common than we've been told and we need to correct it right away."

Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes apologized to Haswell and said understaffing is a challenge in the 911 call center.

Noakes said call takers are working mandatory overtime, and a new captain and deputy chief have been assigned to oversee the 911 system and look for creative ways to fix the staffing issue, including things like bringing back retired workers.

As for Mila, she was diagnosed with a febrile seizure, a relatively common and usually harmless convulsion in young children caused by a fever, and she's just fine now.

Her mother is worried what will happen if she ever has another emergency.

"I was just very alarmed. I feel like 911 is supposed to be our lifeline in a true emergency,” Haswell said. “I feel like I've lost faith in 911 at the moment."

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