Woman's death inspires better dispatch education and training

Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-05 19:48:24-05

It’s the voice of relief in a time of crisis. 

“With our job, we never know what we’re going to pick up. It could be somebody that’s calling 911 because of a traffic complaint and then it could be somebody calling 9-1-1 because their baby is not breathing," says 9-1-1 dispatcher Shelby Frazier. 

No job has a perfect response rate,  but in this industry, a missed call or a clerical error can be life shattering.

“My wife Denise was kidnaped, raped and murdered back in 2008 in Florida," said Nathan Lee, "there was some 9-1-1 issues that happened that could’ve made a difference in whether she was rescued.” 

Five 9-1-1 calls were made the day Denise Amber Lee died. One from Denise after she stole her kidnaper’s phone. Another from a witness who saw her tied up in a car. Due to dispatcher error, officers weren't sent out and the information wasn't even entered in the system. 

“When something like this happens to you, there’s really 2 directions you can go. You know you can go down the direction of let this ruin your life and dictate how you’re going to live the rest of your life. As far as you know being miserable, being upset, being angry, but I kind of knew that’s not what Denise would’ve wanted me to do," said Lee. 

Instead of being angry, he made it his mission to improve dispatch training and standards. He created the Denise Amber Lee Foundation and speaks on behalf of dispatchers across the country. Idaho has changed its standards after hearing him speak in 2016. 

"As of July 1st 2017i t’s now mandatory in the state meet a highering standard, a training standard and a continuing education standards," said Captain Kevin Haight with the Idaho State Police. 

23 states in the U.S. still don’t have any minimum training required by the state. The Denise Amber Lee Foundation continues to work across the country to better the education and create uniformity. 

“They’re not secretaries… they do a lot more than just answering phones,” said Lee. 

Reminding dispatches why they do what they do. 

“I feel like every day I do help somebody, like every day I know that when I go home at night I did help somebody, either saved their life or I got them the help they needed but when they were done talking to me I knew that they were getting assistance that they needed," said Frazier.