Bedridden Woman Dies in Fire After 911 Delay

Bedridden woman was put on hold for almost 30 seconds as her bed burned.

Feb. 14, 2008 — -- It took seven rings before a Doylestown, Pa., 911 operator answered Brenda Orr's emergency call Jan. 29.

Orr, bedridden with multiple sclerosis, was calling for help as flames engulfed her bed.

Then Orr, 53, was placed on hold. It took 27 seconds before a second operator finally picked up the call. Orr died in the fire.

Those crucial seconds could have helped responders save Orr's life. Now the operators in that 911 center are under investigation. Here are excerpts from the 911 call:

Operator: Thanks for holding. 911, what's your emergency?

Caller: 911! The bed is on fire!

Operator: Are you still in the house?

Caller: Yes.

Operator: All right. Well, you wanna get out of the house?

Caller: No. I'm disabled. The bed is fully inflamed.

Then Orr went silent.

For the remainder of the recording, the dispatcher is heard trying to talk to Orr and asking a co-worker whether she should stay on the line, according to The Intelligencer newspaper.

By the time the emergency response team arrived at the scene it was too late. Orr, who was smoking in bed, died in the fire.

County officials launched an investigation, and disciplinary action was taken against some members of the Bucks County emergency communications staff.

"They weren't paying attention to their job. They just were not doing their job properly," said Brent Wiggins, the emergency communications director.