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Family Wants to Know Why Its Calls To 911 Were Placed On Hold

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(Memphis) A Memphis family wants to know why its calls to 911 were placed on hold after they found a loved on unconscious in his apartment.

Family members said they called several times, but couldn't get through for close to 20 minutes.

When the ambulance finally arrived, their loved one was dead.

"She pulled him over, and there was no response. We didn't know what was going on," said Jennifer Barton.

Barton found her brother lying face down on his bedroom floor last Tuesday night.

While her cousin gave him CPR, Jennifer said she frantically called 911 over and over again.

"I called 911, and there was some type of answering service. Every single time I was on hold five to six minutes, seven to eight minutes, nine to ten minutes. All for an answering service," said Barton.

Barton's sister, Jocelyn Barton, said the same went for her. She was in Nashville and called police there hoping they could help.

"They said, 'OK, hold on. We will help you. We will transfer you to Shelby County.' Looking at my phone log, I was on the phone for nine minutes and 32 seconds," Jocelyn Barton said.

Memphis Police said they were flooded will calls last Tuesday night.

During the same time the family tried to get help, police said 142 calls came into 911 and the non-emergency call line.

MPD Spokesperson Karen Rudolph said the first call they got from Barton was at 9:02 p.m., and she was on hold for seven minutes before she hung up.

Rudolph said she called several times again, and police and paramedics arrived at the scene at 9:20 p.m.

Rudolph said a lot of calls were coming in, and if a person is placed on hold, "they should hold on the line until the dispatcher returns. Otherwise, if you hang up and try calling again, you will be placed behind other calls and will have to wait even longer."

"What if they did get on the scene and my brother was breathing?" said Jennifer Barton.

The family buried their loved one Saturday. They're waiting to find out what exactly happened to him.

Nationally, the average 911 wait time is ten minutes.


  • Long Gone

    There should be zero wait time on 911 calls. Its states here 142 calls came in around the same time. Over what period of time? In a city the size of Memphis 142 calls might be a normal call volume.
    How many people were answering calls at the time? How many are normally working? What procedures are in place for overflow calls?

    If you look at your phone bill there’s a monthly charge for 911 service. Who in Shelby County gets this money and how is it spent?

    • Bebe Shay

      I feel so sad for this situation. Nobody should be on hold if they call 911. I listen on the scanner sometimes and look, I am not even trying to blame anyone for anything. Police or dispatch or EMS is not a job I could ever do. But I think they have at least one brand new male dispatcher, also there’s a new cop who’s kind of funny. He gets on the radio all excited “I GOT ONE PULLED OVER! HACKS AND SHELBY!” like he just won a video game, and they have to come back and tell him that’s insufficient. Maybe training is gone down lately.

  • Amy

    It is sad but you have a lot of people who are abusing 911 for non- emergent situations therefore tying the dispatchers up with bs when they could be helping in situations like this.

  • Bill

    Easy, they’re Government workers. The jobs program called City of Memphis hires only one kind of people, Memphis gradutes who gradutate reading at the 5th grade level.

    • mhw

      Excuse me, but my husband is a 20 year Navy veteran and been to college and works for the city so your comments are ignorant and stupid.

      • Bill

        20 Years in the military doesn’t make you smart. It says Government worker and we all know that means lazy and entitled.

  • Wake Up

    Shanequia broke her nail, Jamal stubbed his toe and it’s free to ride the Amerlans to the hospital. They get in faster that way too. Everyone does it – right?

  • mhw

    A couple months ago driving on I 240 right past Millbranch exit a car on the opposite side of the road was totally engulfed in flames. I called 911 from my car (don’t worry I have a hands free system in my auto) and it took 15 minutes for them to respond. There were no people at the side of the road and I was afraid someone could be trapped inside. We need to quit using money for stupid stuff in the budget and hire more people and better develop our 911 system.

  • dixie nourmous

    Because people are calling with non emergency call tying up the lines, with things like wake up said, I know I was one in a different city,had people call to see what time it was,if the mail was goi g to run on a holiday etc

    • Thomas H. Evans

      As someone said earlier these people should receive a visit from the police with a ticket for $200.00 to be paid within 48 hours. The only way you stop people from doing stupid things is to make sure it cost them in their pocketbooks. I think being put on hold on a 911 call is inexcusable no matter what the reason given by our 911 system. Stop holding long conversations with these idiots, you have their number, hang up on them, give that information to someone in your department to investigate the call.

  • Michael Conry

    It is defiantly sad this has to happen
    But with a very over worked 911 system with BS calls and all the cutbacks the city is making there will be more I this
    Regardless never hang up and call back
    And spread the word to everyone you know that 911 abuse is a major problem ….us the non emergency numbers when it’s not a true emergency as this could be your family member waiting to get through to the dispatchers

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