Stroke Victim Called 911, But Couldn’t Get Help Without Address


Posted on December 20, 2019
Vital time lost as first responders could not locate emergency caller

Mobile 911 Calls Must Get Out with Location Accuracy. Thus reads the first of the Safer Buildings Coalition’s Three Pillars Of In-Building Public Safety Communications. And a recent incident in Chicago proved, with tragic consequences, the importance of this, and what can happen when first responders cannot pinpoint the location of an emergency caller.  As a result, vital time was lost before the victim, who was having a major stroke, received help. 

Duane Raible, of Bangor, Pa, was in Chicago on business when, in the early morning of Oct. 2nd, he suddenly felt uncomfortable and almost passed out in his room at the Thompson Chicago Hotel. He immediately realized that something was very wrong, so he picked up his cell phone and dialed 911. What happened next underscores just how crucial the ability for first responders to locate an emergency caller is. 

During the 911 call, recordings show, Raible explained to a Chicago Fire Department dispatcher that he was dizzy, his face was numb and that he was at the Thompson Chicago Hotel. The dispatcher repeatedly asked Raible to provide the address of the hotel, but the caller was not able to immediately provide it.

“They asked me for the hotel address [but] my symptoms were very difficult to try to engage in that,” Raible explained to 5 NBC Chicago. The dispatcher suggested that Raible look on a business card or a receipt to find the hotel address.

“What’s the address? I don’t know,” Raible responded. “It’s very hard to talk – I don’t know what’s going on. If I move, I get nauseous.”

“I understand, sir, but I’m not there. You are,” the dispatcher persisted, “so I need you to help yourself here, a little bit, and get us an address, so that we can get you an ambulance.”

Raible told the dispatcher he would call the front desk and then hung up the phone. Unfortunately, he could not reach the hotel phone due to his stroke symptoms. Instead, he used Siri on his smart phone to search for the hotel’s address. He then called 911 a second time and provided another dispatcher the address, and an ambulance was eventually sent to the hotel. 

According to the dispatch report, it took more than eight minutes from the time Raible first called 911 to the time an ambulance was sent. Paramedics eventually arrived and took Raible to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a major stroke in his brain stem. 

The delay in response time caused significant damage to Raible’s brain. “Every single minute that you have interruption of the blood supply of the brain about two million cells in the brain dies,” Dr. Ali Alaraj of University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, explained to 5 NBC. “If you act very fast and you treat that patient and restore the blood supply to the brain, you can take someone from being paralyzed to being active, functional and normal.”

Raible is recovering at home Pennsylvania. However, he said: “Eighty percent of my cerebellum is gone.” 

A spokesperson for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) explained to 5 NBC that 911 call takers are trained to encourage callers to find some reference of their location as the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system is a closed system that, in order to maintain the security of the platform, does not allow dispatchers to research a location via the internet.  

She added that OEMC is pursuing new technology to assist in providing more accurate location information of wireless callers and expects to implement the technology in the near future.

Calling from a landline provides an exact location to 911 call takers, but because more and more people abandon landlines entirely, an increasing number of 911 calls, inevitably, will be placed via cell phones. For this reason, it is indeed critical that Mobile 911 … Get Out with Location Accuracy so that help can be dispatched as quickly as possible. 

Check out 5 NBC Chicago's coverage of the incident here: 5 NBC Video