FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida county is going through a 911 nightmare, and it has the sheriff and other leaders facing some tough questions.

“He was a happy baby. Always eating, smiling at everybody, every chance he get,” said Keishawn Johnson Sr. 

On New Year’s Day, little Keishawn’s father, also named Keishawn, put him down for a nap inside their Deerfield Beach home.

Johnson, who isn’t comfortable showing his face, told 7News what happened next.

“His mom, she’s just crying and yelling, ‘my baby, my baby,’” said Johnson.

Little Keishawn had stopped breathing. Relatives began calling 911.

“I grab him, and I’m just doing CPR, CPR. I’m trying. Me, not knowing I’m doing CPR wrong, all I’m doing is blowing in his mouth, and I’m like going, pressing his heart. That’s all I’m doing,” said Johnson.

Meanwhile, he said his family never got a 911 dispatcher on the phone.

“All it’s doing is ringing, ringing, ringing. I had like, over five people calling the police at one time,” said Johnson.

The family raced Keishawn to the hospital themselves. A dispatcher then picked up, but the baby did not survive.

“An ambulance could’ve been here trying to have my son inside the ambulance, trying to save him from anything, but none of that happened,” said Johnson.

Five months later…

“We lost every single thing but ourselves,” said Judith Garwood.

Fire awakened Garwood and Larry Lance in their Hollywood home on April 10. They ran from the house, and Garwood called 911 four times. She said no one picked up.

“Oh, my God, what is going on here? 911 doesn’t answer?” said Garwood.

“I said, ‘Is anyone calling 911?’ Judy, she was trying. Neighbors said, ‘can’t get through.’ I had to jump into the car and go down and knock onto the fire department before they even knew there was a fire in the neighborhood,” said Lance.

When there is an emergency in Broward County, frantic callers call the regional communications center. However, according to the Broward County Commission, it’s understaffed, workers are overworked, and 911 calls are not being picked up.

“People die when someone doesn’t answer that phone, and we need to do something immediately,” said Nan Rich, Broward County Commissioner, District 1.

“We’ve been short staffed for some time now, but it hast been to a critical situation. Now, it’s critical,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Nichole Anderson.

On April 10, in Hollywood, owners of a home that caught fire called 911. Several neighbors also called 911. When there was no answer, someone drove to a nearby fire rescue station to alert firefighters. By the time they arrived 15 minutes later, the house was a total loss.

“I can tell you that during that evening, the influx of inbound of calls that day, that evening, was astronomical, and there essentially just was a surge capacity that we had to deal with,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Communications Officer Angie Mize.

According to BSO, there are 90 vacant dispatch positions. Other counties pay more, so workers are leaving, and COVID just made everything worse.

“They’re task saturated. What does that mean? They’re juggling 15 balls in the air with the expectation that one of them will never be dropped. That’s unfair,” said Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. “We need more personnel, and the way that works is we have to be competitive. Not just competitive, we have to be the best in this country, because we’re gonna continue to lose these people. Why would they leave? One, salary. Two, we answer almost 2.5 million calls for service every single year in this county. They are burnt out.”

However, county commissioners said this has been going on for years, and the commission was not made aware of the most recent issues.

“911 has not been the pride and joy of this county, and so saying that you need some more and staffing sounds like, ‘OK, sounds good,’ but I wonder if there’s more of an inherent problem,” said Mark Bogen, Broward County Commissioner, District 2.

Meanwhile, Garwood has lost everything, and Keishawn Johnson has lost his everything.

“I still can’t believe he’s not here,” said Johnson.

Garwood also said because she lost everything in the fire, she doesn’t have an ID. She’s even having a hard time getting her mail.

Broward County Commissioners told BSO that this is number one on the priority list, and they need to figure out a plan and bring it to the commission as early as next week.

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