Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unanswered calls to 911 prompt Dallas review - WFAA



Posted on September 12, 2012 at 9:57 PM

Updated today at 10:34 PM

DALLAS â€"  Kelvin Crowe was still in pain and still reliving the fear â€" remembering the day he was hit by a sport utility vehicle.

"I just heard the tire screeching and then, 'Bam!'" he recalled. "I just kept saying, 'Lord, please don't take me. I got kids depending on me. Don't take me... don't take me."

Crowe, 35,  was standing on the side of Interstate 45 in South Dallas late Saturday night. He had a blowout, and as he tried to get his vehicle to the shoulder, another car hit him from behind.

Crow wasn't hurt then, but his fiancee was. Using her cell phone, he dialed 911 four times. The phone display shows the calls were placed at 11:48, 11:49, 11:54 and 11:58 p.m.

"The first three calls, the line was busy," Crowe said. "The fourth call is when the automated machine said, 'All other operators are busy assisting other callers.' It said, 'Hold for the next available operator.' I held for maybe a minute; it made a funny sound, so we hung up."

While Crowe couldn't reach a 911 operator, the cell phone did connect to an aunt in Cedar Hill and another in Dallas.

Out of options, Crowe got out of his car to try to flag down help. That's when he was hit by a driver who did not stop.

Eventually, a nurse passing by saw the scene and she was able to get through to 911.

Crowe's family contacted WFAA, and on Tuesday morning, we began asking the City of Dallas what happened Saturday night.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Dallas Police Department lieutenant who now oversees the 911 center personally visited Crowe in the hospital. A city spokesman explained the lieutenant went to see Crowe as part of the city's thorough review. They wanted a first-hand account of what happened.

On Wednesday, Mayor Mike Rawlings said the city's review showed Crowe's 911 calls never made it to the Dallas 911 call center.

"It went into the antenna, but it didn't come to us," Rawlings said. "We've got proof it didn't show up at 911."

The city said Crowe could not have received a busy signal from the Dallas 911 call center, because the center was not at capacity. The city said it is possible Crowe's carrier â€"  T-mobile â€"  routed his calls to another jurisdiction's 911 call center.

"The call got into T-Mobile's antenna and it didn't get to us; it wasn't sent appropriately. One of those things that just didn't hit up," said Rawlings.

He stressed the city has had issues with 911 response over the last six months, but said Kelvin Crowe's incident is not a 911 call center issue.

However, T-Mobile conducted its own investigation and said it found no problem with a tower, and no problem with its network. T-Mobile said there were no other complaints from any other customer in that time frame.

The city also acknowledged it was receiving other 911 calls from T-Mobile. T-Mobile said it has a 911 analyst who is continuing to work with DPD to get to the bottom of what happened on Saturday night.

"Maybe if we'd have gotten a response, or if police would have answered, then I would have just stayed in the truck a little longer," Crowe said. "That way I wouldn't have walked back down there and it would have been avoided."

Crowe has a broken arm, a deeply bruised leg, and stitches over his right eye.



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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