Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crash victim says he couldn't get through to Dallas 911 after multiple calls - Dallas Morning News (blog)

A victim in a weekend traffic accident in Dallas said his repeated calls to 911 went unanswered after the crash, our colleagues at Channel 8 report.

It’s the latest in a series of high-profile snafus involving Dallas’ emergency call system, the most serious of which ended in the death of a Dallas woman slain as she talked to a 911 operator.

Kelvin Crowe, 35, was standing on the side of Interstate 45 late Saturday after his car was rear-ended by another vehicle. He says he called 911 four times, getting busy signals on three calls and a recording on the latest.

Frustrated he tried to flag down a passing car and was hit himself, suffering a broken arm and a deeply bruised leg.

A nurse who was driving by stopped and managed to get through to 911.

City officials say it’s impossible that Crowe got a busy signal, and they say there’s no record that his calls ever got to the call center. They suspect it was a problem with his carrier, but T-Mobile denied that when contacted by WFAA.

Here’s a full statement from the city:

At approximately 11:50pm on September 8, 2012, Mr. Kelvin Crowe was involved in an accident in the 5900 block of Julius Schepps Freeway. As a result of the accident, one of the passengers in his vehicle was injured and needed medical attention. Mr. Crowe made several attempts to contact the City of Dallas 911 Call Center using his cell phone but the calls did not connect to the call center. Mr. Crowe exited his vehicle to find help for his passenger. Once outside of his vehicle, another vehicle struck Mr. Crowe. The driver of that vehicle fled the scene without stopping to assist and has not been located at this time.

The City of Dallas conducted a review of the calls during the time period of this incident. At this time, we can not find any indication that the Dallas 911 Call Center received a call from Mr. Crowe’s cell number. Other calls were received during that time period from that carrier’s cellular communication tower. However, none of these calls received reflected Mr. Crowe’s cellular telephone number. During the time period the four cell phone calls were made by Mr. Crowe, the Dallas 911 Call Center was not at capacity, and therefore those calls would not have received a busy signal as reported by Mr. Crowe. It is possible that Mr. Crowe’s call was sent to another jurisdiction’s 911 Call Center by the tower. That situation can occur. When it does, and if the caller stays on the line to speak to a live call taker, that call taker will transfer the call to the proper jurisdiction and assist in dispatching the call.

Cell phones can be extremely valuable in emergency situations. However, cell phone users should always be aware of the limitations in cell phone technology in relationship with 911 systems. As a USA Today article points out, “it is important to note that the nation’s 911 emergency response system, built in 1967, was based on the expectation that calls for help would come from land-line telephones, says Paul Linnee, a consultant for emergency communications.” “Now, with more people using cellphones exclusively, calls that bounce from tower to tower pose significant challenges.”

Cell phones may provide the general location of a caller with GPS technology, or no information at all if the cell phone or carrier does not support positioning technology. Cell phones are reliant on towers to relay calls. Many factors can affect a cell phones ability to access a tower and can even give the caller the impression the call is being completed when in fact it is not. There are multiple 911 call centers in large metropolitan areas and a cell phone provider/carrier can misdirect the call to another designated 911 call center. The 911 call centers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area do work together and will forward calls when determined it has been misdirected by the cell phone network.

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