LAFD Releases 9-1-1 Audio for Metrolink Collision

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 |

The recent tragedy involving a collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a freight train in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles affected many lives both within the Los Angeles area and nationwide. Over the course of four hours, the LAFD Dispatch Center received hundreds of 9-1-1 calls for assistance at the collision site, in addition to their normal call volume.

The same men and women answering the 9-1-1 calls for help also coordinated the dispatch and control of over 100 LAFD Fire Companies, Ambulances, Helicopters, Support and Command Staff, 80 private ambulances, and numerous resources from allied agencies.

9-1-1 calls for help can be heartbreaking and extremely stressful under the best of conditions. Many times, we forget to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of those Firefighters and Paramedics working behind the scene to provide a safety net for those living, working, and visiting our fine City.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has received dozens of requests for the release of the 9-1-1 tapes related to the Metrolink incident. Since it would take hundreds of hours to assemble, edit and distribute this information, the probability of fulfilling this request within a reasonable period of time would be doubtful.

Therefore, the LAFD has assembled a small sampling of 9-1-1 calls which are reflective of the type of calls being received during this event. Certain information, such as names, phone numbers, and personally identifiable information has been redacted for privacy reasons.

With such a traumatic event, it is respectfully requested that any reproduction or distribution of these audio files be done in a dignified and respectful manner. These will be the only 9-1-1 audio files released by the Los Angeles Fire Department via the LAFD News & Information blog, and they may be withdrawn without notice.

Submitted by Ron Myers, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


TNG said...

Very good audio. I'd like to hear the first in's initial sizeup if possible.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

TNG, there are presently no plans to post other audio files of this incident.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Good recordings. The 911 operators didn't seem to have a good understanding of the location though. You can't get much clearer than "We're almost to the first tunnel" "heading towards simi valley" For a train, its very difficult to establish a location unlike a road. They handled the situation very well though despite that. Great job everyone!

J Q Public said...

It is times like these that I am reminded how lucky we are to have firefighter/paramedics responding to 911 calls in Los Angeles. A significant amount of money is spent on training for these fine folks, and it is worth every penny and then some.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this, but that third dispatcher didn't sound very bright, or like he wasn't listening to what the man was saying. Hats off to the passenger who was able to feed the guy information about their location.

Anonymous said...

I hope I never have to call 911.

Anonymous said...

Well, in the dispatchers defense, the one guy calling from onboard the train did not know what the train collided with, and I think the natural assumption would be that it was the train and an automobile (since that happens most often), seemed like the dispatcher was trying to get an intersection address (street where the road would cross the tracks).

Horrible incident. My heart goes out to everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT Job done by the dispatcher's. An incident of this size and caliber would test the knowledge and expertise of anyone. My hats off to the initial response of the LAFD and all agencies that assisted with this horrific scene.

Will Campbell... said...

Heroes. On both sides of the calls. Every one of them.

Anonymous said...

I have been a dispatcher for 20 years and do listen to many of these 911 calls. These dispatchers did an excellent job. Hats off to you all for a job well done.

Ashley said...

A public safety dispatcher's job is very stressful and can be very challenging when reporting parties don't know exactly where they are calling from.

These firefighter trained dispatchers did a good job.

Ashley Rogers, EMD

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that 911 calls cannot legally be aired by licensed broadcasters. Specifically, FCC rule 73.1206 prohibits recording a conversation in which all parties are not aware that it may be broadcast. Certainly, 911 callers have no reason to expect their voice to be aired.

In the spirit of that federal law, I'm saddened that the LAFD would choose to release recordings of calls. It serves no public good, and may harm those persons directly involved.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 9:55,

Thanks for sharing your legal knowledge. While we can't profess to fully understanding what broadcasters are allowed to share with their audience, we offer these sound files on the internet in response to dozens of identical media requests citing the California Public Records Act (CA Gov't Code 6250), which does mandate our release of such recordings.

If you have additional insight or concerns, we welcome you to make them known to our Administration, and especially the City Attorney staff assigned to our agency.

Your best point of contact would be the Battalion Chief serving as the LAFD Community Liaison Officer: (213) 978-3810.

I hope this information helps. Thanks for visiting the LAFD News and Information blog.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

firemanzac said...

These dispatchers did an awesome job giving the circumstances! Brian, your dispatchers are second to none. Having responded to numerous mass-casualties myself in 14 years of service, I can honestly say that we as responders often dont appreciate what the dispatchers have to go through in the process of doing their job. I to would like to have heard theintial dispatch and size up. It could be a learning tool for all.

Art Gordon,
aka: Firemanzac
BHVFD, PG County MD,
Currently Deployed to the Middle East

J Q Public said...

Part 73 CFR Section 1206 deals with stations making the actual recording of the broadcast. Clearly, no media station made the recordings of the broadcasts, LAFD did. LAFD is not licensed by the FCC as a broadcast media station, which the above CFR regulates. I sincerely doubt LAFD will run into any issues with releasing these recordings-- the public interest is clearly served by the release of these recordings.

Anonymous said...

Second to None? One PR said that it was below the 118 in LA and the dispatcher then transfered the call to LA County asking if they dispatched for Ventura. Must be scary when they have to contact other agencies for Mutaul Aid. They need to take some lessons from VFCC.

Mberenis said...

God bless LAFD.

Woody said...

Being in the fire service for almost 20 years and a fire dispatcher for 12, I think the dispatchers did a great job with the information that was presented to them. I'm sure that out of 100 calls received just for an example, they probably got 100 different versions of where the accident was, what happened, how many people were hurt.

Good job with a difficult incident.

Pat Pope said...

I live in the Chatsworth area and I saw the smoke from the train wreck. I also have been to the city's fire dispatch center.

It is easy with 20/20 hindsight to say "Come on we know the crash is in the city, just send help!" But the reality is all of these calls and many many others were coming in at the same time.

The call that seemed confused was clearly one of the first calls, and the railroad tracks have no physical address in the E911 system. There was no intersection. The call taker did not hang up on the caller, he continued to ask clarifying questions until he got the story straight. Meanwhile other call takers were taking calls on the same incident.

The response by OCD and by LAFD and all of the first responders was immediate and massive.

The fire fighters who answer the 911 calls at OCD are very professional. I'm glad I live in a city that can respond to a crisis.

JOHN C. BAKER said...

As a former dispatcher in the Bay Area, I can read (hear?) a little between the lines in the recordings. It's hard enough to get people to tell you where they are half the time -- it's even worse when folks don't have an address or intersection for the dispatcher to put into CAD. I can hear the pause in the dispatchers' voices as they try to enter a location on the tracks into the darn computer. Up here, in the Caltrain corridor, they finally got mile markers on the tracks to pop up into CAD (not that the general public would be able to read them) and that helped ease some of the problem.

e said...

These 911 recordings are very compelling, thank you for posting them. (As jq public points out, the cited FCC rule does not apply, 911 calls are public records subject to disclosure upon request, and are routinely recorded. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy.) Good job to everyone involved, the callers and the dispatchers, you are all heroes.

Bernard M Peters said...

As a fellow dispatcher who deals with OCD every day I think your folks did phenomenal job trying to interrogate people to give the best picture to first in units. Keep up the great work. Its always a pleasure working with you from the other guys at the County.

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