911 mixup sent first responders to wrong apartments

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Following the first 911 call Tuesday night about the apartment building fire in D'Iberville, first responders were initially sent to the wrong apartment complex.

Precious minutes of response time were lost because the 911 call, made from a cell phone, was directed to the City of Biloxi, rather than Harrison County, which dispatches D'Iberville police and fire. Add to that a similar-sounding apartment complex in Biloxi, and it's easy to see what went wrong.

Since the call transferred from the Popp's Ferry tower, the dispatcher saw a Popp's Ferry address for the caller. That prompted her to send help to Arbor Place Apartments, just down the road.

"A little bit of confusion until we could determine that," Biloxi Police Chief John Miller. "Because we have an Arbor apartment in Biloxi also, so there was a few minutes of confusion there before we realized that, hey, this is D'Iberville."

As police and fire respond to the Biloxi apartment complex, there was no reason to believe there was a mix-up. When those first responders radio back that there's no fire showing, it's then that the dispatch center realized the mix-up; seven minutes and twelve seconds after the first 911 call.

"In this particular case, there were several things that would lead you to believe that it was Biloxi. The name of the apartment complex, the address. Most of the time, we catch 'em pretty quick. This one was caught pretty quick, too. Wish we had caught it a little quicker," Miller said.

D'Iberville Fire Chief Gerald Smith told WLOX News that minutes are important when responding to any fire. However, he said there's no way to tell if those few minutes would have made any difference with this devastating fire.

As for using your cell phone to call 911, Sheriff Melvin Brisolara said he knows of cases when emergency callers wound-up on the line with a dispatch center in another state. He said it's important to give your exact location, especially on a cell phone.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Fire Arms is now involved in the investigation of the apartment fire. ATF Agent Joel Lee told WLOX News the ATF is involved because of the size of the fire and because it happened at an apartment complex.

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