City-County 911 Operators Describe Helping Squirrel Hill Victims

Talk of First Calls from Tree of Life Synagogue

Joe DeStio
November 01, 2018 - 3:28 pm
9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers at the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center in Point Breeze are talking about the first calls they received from victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings Saturday.

Joe DeStio

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers at the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center in Point Breeze are talking about the first calls they received from victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings Saturday.

Nine year Telecommunications Officer Bruce Carlton says he took the first call at 9:54 am from Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers. “All the mention of shots, the 20 to 30, then five volleys here, five volleys there, those were all his words through me. I put in everything he told me for the officers’ safety so they would know where it was coming from, what direction.”

Call taker Michael Steinmiller has worked at 9-1-1 about seven and a half years. His role was to be a dispatcher that day. His job, to get police, SWAT, EMT’s and other public safety personnel to the scene. But he also had to help direct officers who were going inside the synagogue.

“We did have information of people who were hiding inside the building. But then as the dispatcher, I had to be conscious that he (the gunman) might be listening also,” said Steinmiller.

Call taker Michele Kalinsky just started her job at 9-1-1 in August and was still is training when she took one of the first calls Saturday morning. On the other end was 76 year old Barry Werber who was hiding in a dark basement closet at Tree of Life.

“When I took the call I explained to him when he explained his fears. I let him know that he wasn’t alone, I would be with him and we would get through it,” said Kalinsky.

Werber did get through it. But one of the people in the closet with him, 87 year old Melvin Wax, did not. He was shot to death when he opened the door to the closet thinking the gunman had left.

Chief of Emergency Services Matt Brown says most of the 45 to 65 call takers and dispatchers on duty during the massacre have sought some form of mental health counseling.

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