Dealing with emergency situations

Wednesday, September 7th 2005, 10:20 am
By: News On 6

911 dispatchers are often the forgotten heroes during emergencies and tragic events. They are the first ones to know there's a problem and must get key information to police officers and firefighters.

Dispatchers from all over the state are in Tulsa for their annual training conference. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright looks at the lessons learned from one dispatcher who worked the Columbine school shooting.

April 20, 1999 was a day few Americans will forget, a killing rampage inside Columbine High School in Colorado. It was easy to see the heroes on the scene, but, there were other heroes, behind the scenes, handling hundreds of frantic phone calls, many of them from inside the school. Dispatcher: "Keep everyone low to the floor." Teacher: "Yes, get on the floor, get on the floor."

Renee' Napoli was that calm voice talking to the terrified teacher in the library. The last 40 minutes of the audio tape are so bad; it's been sealed and cannot be released. 10 students were killed and 15 others injured in that library. The person behind the reassuring voice was deeply impacted.

Renee' Napoli with the Jefferson County Sheriff's office: "My breaking point was when I went to pick up my kids from school, it was a couple of days later and I sat in my car and just lost it, because I was picking up my kids from school and others would never do that again."

A surveillance video shows the suspects coming into the cafeteria and taking target practice. The two suspects fired a total of 188 shots with a tech-nine and a sawed off shotgun. They exploded 30 devices, homemade grenades, pipe bombs and propane bombs. Notes showed they plan to kill 200 by 11:07 AM and 300 by 11:10 AM. And they might've succeeded had it not been for the dispatchers who kept cool heads and nerves of steel while their hearts were breaking.

The Columbine killers committed suicide in the school library. Police found 46 more devices that did not explode.