Wrong address delays ambulance, could cost lives, Dixon woman says
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Lana Kennedy protests address problems at the county commission.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (April 26, 2010) — Following months of nonanswers from various government officials, Dixon resident Lana Kennedy came to Monday morning’s county commission meeting to protest the insistence of her neighbors on putting an address on their home that doesn’t belong to them.
Kennedy came to the county commission and reported that her husband, who suffers from numerous medical problems, was taken to the intensive care unit by an ambulance that had trouble finding her home because of addressing problems; previous issues have included medical supplies delivered by parcel companies whose drivers couldn’t locate her residence.
“I am stunned that this has gone on as long as it has, and that nobody has died as a result of this problem. My husband was pretty close,” Kennedy said.
Repeated efforts to get answers to her problems haven’t yet worked, Kennedy said. State Rep. David Day has provided copies of state statutes on 911 addressing but it’s not clear whether the county commission, the fire district, or some other agency has to actually enforce the rules requiring proper addresses on homes.
Part of the problem, Kennedy said, is that the chief of the Dixon Rural Fire Protection District is still on record as an owner of the property, though he no longer is in the home.
“I hate to keep tying up your time,” Kennedy said. “David Day says the county has to honor that and the fire protection board has to do their duty ... I hate to say this in public but the fire chief lived in that house. Do you think the fire district is going to fine their fire chief?”
Kennedy lives at an address on Chameleon Drive that’s only one digit different from the neighbor. According to Kennedy, the Dixon fire chief came to the home where he previously lived and removed a numeral from the home address, but either the current resident of the home or someone else has since replaced the numeral so the two homes now have the same address again, causing confusion for people who try to find either Kennedy’s home or the neighbor’s home.
“Right now for the third time that 8 has been covered up by a hard number 9. As of now it shows a 9,” Kennedy said.
The problem has also affected the neighbor who had a medical emergency when ambulance personnel went to the wrong house on his call.
“When they had to go to 90 and it was explained it was 80 for a possible overdose, that man could have died,” Kennedy said.
Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch, who previously chaired the Pulaski County 911 board, said something needs to be done to help.
“For those of you who don’t know, this lady in Dixon has a problem with her address and it took the emergency services a long time to come out,” McCulloch said.
“So your concern is the time it took the ambulance to get in?” asked County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer.
“And also the attitude I got. (The dispatcher) kept asking what house I was in,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said she’s tried repeatedly to find someone who can answer her concerns.
“(Former Presiding Commissioner Bill) Ransdall tried to help me. I contacted a attorney; he wants $500 to help me. We’re on Medicare and Medicaid and we can’t afford that,” Kennedy said. “I’ve gone back to the postmaster that has changed; he said this should be enforced. Everybody tells me I have to go back to the commissioners, the court, or according to the sheriff’s department again, I have to file a civil lawsuit because it is a civil matter.”
Kennedy said she’s tried to reach several members of the Pulaski County 911 Board including board chairman Paul Slater and Waynesville Police Chief Bob Carter.
“I didn’t even get close to the police chief; (the receptionist) told me I needed to file a complaint,” Kennedy said.
McCulloch, who preceded Carter as Waynesville’s police chief, didn’t like that answer and called the Waynesville Police Department to find out why Carter didn’t speak with Kennedy.
“The reason Chief Carter couldn’t see you was he was in a meeting, but they are going to give you a complaint form … They have a regular standard form and they are going to assist you as much as possible,” McCulloch said.
McCulloch, who is also a former Pulaski County sheriff, said he understands why deputies told Kennedy that they could not help.
“The sheriff cannot enforce any civil law; it is not a crime,” McCullloch said. “Your alternative there is to file a civil lawsuit.”
Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham, who represents the Dixon area, said something must be done to create enforceable ordinances requiring house numbers.
“We’re a third-class county and we’ve never passed ordinances because we were told we cannot pass ordinances because we are a third-class county. Just recently we have been told by our attorney we can do this,” Farnham said. “This is one of the main ones that the sheriff’s department has asked me about to have the numbers physically on the property because it would make things so much easier for the emergency services.”
McCulloch said Kennedy needs to take up the matter with the 911 board.
“Let me explain to you as a former board member how this works. You should go up and file a complaint; it is an elected body,” McCulloch said. “Ask to get on their agenda and address the whole board; that’s what you should ask for.”
McCulloch had Linnenbringer provided Kennedy with a list of names of all the 911 board members so she could contact them as well.
“It used to be you could walk into a place and talk to people directly,” McCulloch said. “There is no reason that this should be happening it is a simple matter of changing the numbers. If somebody is too lazy to do it for them, maybe we could go do it for them.”
Kennedy said she’s not been able to obtain key information about why the ambulance was delayed in reaching her home for emergency calls.
“When I went up there and calmly asked after the first heart-attack call; they told me they log said it took only four minutes, which was wrong, and then I had to pay for a copy of that log,” Kennedy said. “Then when I asked for it again, they told me I need to hire an attorney.”
That’s not correct, McCulloch said.
“Let me tell you what you’re entitled to; those are all recorded EMS tapes. They have to give them to you,” McCulloch said. “Just go up and ask.”
Later in the meeting, McCulloch reached Carter by telephone and said that while he didn’t want to intrude in the 911 Board’s business, something must be done.
“You as a board member, in my opinion, need to take a look at this. It’s gone on for several months, even before I came on the board,” McCulloch said to Carter. “It took 28 minutes for an ambulance to get to her house, and in my opinion it is dire to deal with this … She’s been trying to deal with this for months and everywhere she goes, it keeps putting her off.”
Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink said he doesn’t understand why the problem has been running since July, and why repeated efforts by Kennedy since an October meeting with the commission haven’t borne fruit.
“My question is why are they having such a problem straightening this out?” Zweerink said.
“I know more of the story but I don’t want to say it in a room full of reporters … I don’t want this plastered all over the news media,” Farnham said. “I’m guessing, and it’s only a guess, that the reason the dispatchers were asking her all those questions is that if it was the other address, they need to have law enforcement on scene as their protocol in certain situations.”
McCulloch said he believes the root of the problem is likely miscommunication.
“She probably isn’t seeing the right people… my goal is not to do 911’s business but she came before us seeking answers and I wanted to give her answers as best as I could,” McCulloch said. “There’s always two sides to every story and we need to get 911’s side of it.”