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Lafayette 911 strives to prevent incident like Arkansas drowning call response

Fort Smith, AR woman chastised by 911 operator
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Posted at 8:27 PM, Sep 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-05 16:43:26-04

LAFAYETTE, LA. — Many across the country were shocked to hear the recording of Arkansas newspaper delivery woman Debbie Stevens' 911 call on Saturday, August 31.

On the call, she pleaded with the operator as her SUV filled with water.

“I’m scared, I've never had anything like this happen to me before," said Stevens.

The 911 operator responded with, “Well this will teach you next time don’t drive in the water…I don’t see how you didn’t see it. You had to go right over it.”

At one point she told the woman to "shut up."

Stevens drowned a short time later, before help could arrive.

After the incident, outrage poured out on social media, with people wondering how a 911 operator could be so negligent.

911 operators work 12 hour shifts, not always the best hours. Lafayette Parish 911 operators can take anywhere from 600 to more than 1000 phone calls per shift.

Director of Lafayette 911 and the Lafayette Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Craig Stansbury says his organization has steps in place to prevent a similar incident from happening close to home.

Stansbury says, "It's one of the hardest jobs there is, but I know all of the 911 operators here take their jobs seriously. They have a strong compassion and feeling for the people in Lafayette Parish and for all the callers who happen to call 911 in Lafayette.”

He adds, “That’s why we have the supervisors there to help monitor that, that’s also the reason why we do quality control for their calls, because if we hear that or sense that, then we’re able to address it before anything bad happens."

While interacting with callers, 911 operators are expected to keep their composure and help mitigate the fear of the person on the other end of the call.

Often their reactions could mean the difference between life and death.