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Text from 680 miles away not 911 center's first long-distance call

By Dave Delozier, ddelozier@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 30 2014 03:44:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 30 2014 08:38:37 PM CDT

A text from a teenager more than 680 miles away was not the first long-distance call for help the Middleton emergency dispatch center has received.

MIDDLETON, Wis. -

A text from a teenager more than 680 miles away was not the first long-distance call for help the Middleton emergency dispatch center has received.

Six months ago, the city of Middleton added a program to allow their communication center dispatchers to receive emergency text messages.

In the months since, they have sent and received nearly 900 text messages. What they didn’t expect was for the program to help save the life of someone more than 600 miles away.

Susan Buechner, a dispatcher, was working in the dispatch center when she received a text message from an 18 year old. His text message said that his mother was in need of medical help. Buechner immediately started asking the young man the same series of questions she would had the call come in over the telephone.

“The questioning was the same. It wasn’t until the dispatcher got a little bit more information about where his mom was and the particular hotel she was at and it did not ring true for a Middleton hotel, so it led to further questioning,” said Wendy McKnight, supervisor of the Middleton Communications Center.

Buechner noticed the area code of the cellphone, which was 913, and asked him where he was calling from.

“I asked him and he said, 'Oh snap. Is this Wisconsin?'” Buechner said.

The young man was calling from some 680 miles away near Middleton, Tenn.

“He really believed he was talking to Middleton, Tennessee,” Buechner said.

Regardless of the miles that separated them, Buechner set out to get the young man and his mother help. She called the police in Middleton, Tenn., gave them the location of the woman in need of help, and continued to text with the young man until emergency personnel arrived.

“I like to help people. I like being part of something like this, an organization where it is somebody’s worst day, and we’re here to try to make it as easy with this as we can,” Buechner said.

The emergency text message is not the first time dispatchers in Middleton have been mistakenly contacted by people far from Wisconsin. Dispatchers said they have gotten calls mistakenly from New York, New Jersey and Colorado. They even received one call from an individual in Middleton, England.

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