Should 9-1-1 Calls be Broadcast on TV?

By Chris Ariens 

Sometimes when the TV is left on after the news goes off, you pick up a piece of information that can become a story. That’s what happened this morning when the doctors from “The Doctors,” a syndicated show seen in New York on WCBS at 9am, made a bold declaration that the broadcasting of 9-1-1 calls should not be allowed.

“We’re gonna take a stand here on our show and say that, unequivocally, we do not feel as physicians that 9-1-1 calls should be sent out to be broadcast,” said lead “Doctors” Dr. Travis Stork.

That is heresy to TV news producers and reporters who will tell you their stories are made much better and more whole, not to mention more dramatic, with the urgency a 9-1-1 call provides.

“The Doctors” were discussing the case of Demi Moore and the 9-1-1 call that resulted in her being rushed to the hospital last month. Dr. Stork argues that as soon as someone calls 9-1-1, they are a patient and that doctor-patient confidentiality should kick in. “We are going to urge that congress takes this up,” said Stork.

What was not discussed was how the broadcasting of 9-1-1 calls can be a wake-up call for operators who don’t heed a caller’s warning soon enough. The most recent example of that made national headlines last week.

On Sunday Feb. 5, David Lovrak had taken an urgent call from Elizabeth Griffin-Hall the caseworker assigned to the case of Josh Powell and his two sons.

Griffin-Harris called Pierce County, WA 9-1-1 at 12:08 p.m. Five minutes later, information from that call was transferred to the radio dispatcher. At 12:16, two deputies were sent to the scene. The first unit arrived at 12:30 but by then Josh Powell had set his home on fire and killed his two young sons and himself.

Lovrak, a veteran 9-1-1 operator later told “Dateline NBC” he was “clumsy and faltering” on the call. “Realizing what we all know now, I wish I had recognized the urgency of the situation.”

So we’re putting it to you: