Search terms:6-year-old, 911 call, Donald Sprenkel, baby sitter, call, type of advice, take control, Medical priority dispatch system, flip-card format, Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale Florida

Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Mike Folks, Sun-Sentinel staff writer

6-year-old demonstrates calm during call to 911 dispatcher

When Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue dispatcher Ellen Chaisson took the 911 call in March, 6-year-old Donald Sprenkel was on the line with a real problem.

The boy, whose favorite television show is Emergency 911, had walked into his baby sitter's kitchen and found her on the floor.

The baby sitter had suffered a seizure and was bleeding from the back of her head, where she struck the marble floor when she fell. Sprenkel ran to the phone and dialed 911.

"From what he was saying, he actually told me that his baby sitter was having a seizure," Chaisson said. "I asked him what the baby sitter was doing and where she was. He was very calm."

Because of Donald's actions, the baby sitter was taken to the hospital and admitted in fair condition.

Chaisson was not surprised by the composure the young boy demonstrated in the face of such a scary situation.

"Usually kids stay pretty calm, a lot calmer than adults," Chaisson said. "We ask them questions to determine what the problem is, then talk about something else to take their mind away from what's going on. You kind of have to put yourself at their age level.

Adults, however, can be frantic, but a dispatcher must take control of the situation in order to gain information or advise the caller on what actions to take.

"Sometimes you have to yell at them. It's like a slap in the face over the phone," Chaisson said.

During her seven-minute call with Sprenkel, Chaisson asked him questions about where his mother and father were. She repeatedly assured him that an ambulance was on the way, asked him what the baby sitter was doing and what symptoms she had, and directed him to unlock the front door so the ambulance crew could enter the home.

The call ended when the ambulance crew arrived.

"You did a real good job, darling," Chaisson said to the boy at the end of the conversation.

Although Chaisson did not have to give Sprenkel medical advice, she said issuing that type of advice to callers has become easier with Medical Priority Dispatch System. That system allows dispatchers to give medical advice to callers as it is written in a flip-card format.

"We've used it a long time and it's a big help," Chaisson said. "There's so much to remember. Unless you're a paramedic or a doctor, it's hard to remember all that information."