Josh Powell 911 calls

I just listened to the social worker’s two calls to 911: the first, when he refused to let her into the house, and the second, where she reported that the house had just exploded into flames.

The first one is physically painful to listen to. The 911 dispatcher totally misunderstood at first and thought the social worker was the one visiting the children, and Josh was the supervisor, although she explained the situation clearly enough. The dispatcher asked questions as if he and the social worker were in an office filling out routine paperwork, a lot of it seemingly unrelated (like what was the make, model and license number of her car, and how do you spell Josh’s last name) and had her repeat herself a lot, wasting valuable time, and told her basically that the police would stop by when they were good and ready, because this was not a “life-threatening situation” or an “emergency.” Meanwhile she was trying to explain that she smelled gas and Josh had just failed to gain custody of the kids, etc. She tried to explain also that he was Susan Powell’s husband but basically got cut off there.

To be fair, time was also wasted because the SW didn’t remember the exact address and had to dig around in her car to find it, but the dispatcher wasted a lot more time with his idiotic irrelevant questions.

The 911 dispatcher says he’s sorry and he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. No kidding. I have to compare it to one of my 911 calls in Virginia, where things got complicated because they didn’t quite know where I was and I couldn’t tell them, not knowing the area. I think my dispatcher handled things much better and got to the meat of things in good time, even though I was panicking and confused by that point.

Following his conversation with the SW and all the pedantry, the dispatcher waited another minute to send for the police, marked it as a routine call, and failed to mention about how the SW smelled gas, and how this was THE Josh Powell, husband of THE Susan Powell. The police said they would have made it a priority call if they’d known, and would have gotten there five minutes sooner.

Hindsight is 20-20, I suppose, and in any case, once Josh slammed the door I doubt the authorities could have gotten there in time to stop him from fulfilling his murderous plan. He’d already poured the gas, after all. But, I mean, geezus… The dispatcher’s name has been released to the public and of course he’s being pilloried all over the internet and the news.

If there are any emergency dispatchers or other people knowledgeable in that area who read my blog, I would like their take on this in the comments section.

6 thoughts on “Josh Powell 911 calls

  1. Eva Marie Leger February 11, 2012 / 5:31 pm

    I can’t listen to it. I hard the first one and only got a minute into the second. I can’t stand to hear people talking and knowing at those moments those two children were suffering and dieing.
    I do agree, from what I heard, the dispatcher dropped the ball. Somewhere it as dropped. Just what you said – he wasted valuable time. VERY valuable time in this instance.
    If he had taken it as seriously as it should have been taken would the boys still be alive? It’s fact that he didn’t do this right away, he waited. Why? It doesn’t matter but while he was waiting or doing whatever authorities could have been arriving.
    If she smelled gas soon enough for her to say it in the beginning of th first phone call that tells me he probably had this planned in advance. Hence him not letting her in. Why did he wait? The smell of gas in a circumstance like she described isn’t dire enough?
    This is a sad, sad world we live in……..

  2. Saffy February 11, 2012 / 6:54 pm

    yeah, and the guy has to live with it. I feel sorry for him, since who ever thinks this is going to happen? it’s like those 911 operators on 9/11…you hear them now and cringe but imagine the situation they were in! who ever imagines the WTC will be on fire?
    knowing that this guy was so unstable, it was a horrible mistake to let the kids visit him at his home. The 911 operator is not responsible for their deaths, even if he did ask stupid questions. Everyone failed those children: his father, the police, social services…

    • Robin Cox February 11, 2012 / 7:23 pm

      Amen Saffy! Many, many systems failed that family.

  3. Princess Shantae February 11, 2012 / 7:31 pm

    My aunt is a dispatcher and she listened to both calls. I didn’t have a chance yet aside from clips on TV. She says the dispatcher did waste time, but that it isn’t fair to expect him to know right away what the name Josh Powell or Susan Powell means. I agree; I mean, Susan went missing in Utah, not Washington, and not everybody follows cases closely, and Powell is such a common name, why expect him to know?
    Sadly I have a good idea of what would of happened if the police had got there sooner: there’d be a couple or more officers dead now too.

    • Saffy February 11, 2012 / 9:53 pm

      exactly. I thought, the social worker should have gone into the house first, AHEAD of the kids. But if she had, she would be dead now. He’d have killed her for sure. And if anyone had run into that house, cops or whoever, they’d have been blown up also. At that point, no matter what, it would have ended up as a tragedy but even MORE people could have died.

  4. Tracey Reitterer February 12, 2012 / 4:32 am

    “I don’t know, Ma’am, they have to respond to ER & life threatening emergencies first. We’ll have the first available deputy CONTACT YOU.” Jesus, talk about the need for 911 re-training. She was very clear about who she was and what she was doing there. She gave the address and said she smelled gas in less than the first 2 minutes of the phone call. My question is; why didn’t he dispatch police & fire departments IMMEDIATELY? The other questions could have been asked while help was on the way. Instead, he wasted another 5 minutes & STILL didn’t send help. Perhaps the commenter’s are correct & maybe it wouldn’t have saved those kids in time, but you never know. If this is the authorities version of RAPID RESPONSE TO 911, I feel very sorry for the residents of Puyallup, WA. I hope that dispatcher is fired.

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