Dallas City Leaders Work to Fix 911 Call Center-T-Mobile Issues

Dallas city leaders are working to fix massive problems between their 911 call center and phone carrier T-Mobile that have caused calls to back up.

Officials said phantom calls are coming into 911 from T-Mobile phones, leading to long wait times and delays in emergency response.

According to city leaders, the problems peaked Saturday when 360 calls to 911 operators were left on hold.

Two people died during the delay.

Brandon Alex, 6 months old, died while being rushed to the hospital Saturday. His mother, Bridget Alex, was on hold with a 911 operator when he died.

“I was just kissing his lips, and I was like, ‘Brandon wake up. Brandon don’t do this to mommy. Wake up. Brandon, wake up.’ And he would not respond,” she said.

Bridget Alex was at her nephew's funeral when her son passed out at home. The babysitter called 911 several times and was still on hold when Bridget arrived. She was still on hold when Bridget took him to the hospital.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and City Manager T.C. Broadnax held a news conference to address the public concern. The problem, according to city leaders, is connected to resources and technical support through T-Mobile.

“I talked to Mrs. Alex on the phone this afternoon. I talked to her and I said, ‘My heart is broken for the loss of a loved one,'" Rawlings said. "We’re going to get to the bottom of this. I promised her that."

“I don’t want to hear the excuses because this has been going on since November," Alex said. "Why did my child have to be the example?"

Another person has come forward claiming a loved one died after being on hold with 911 in Dallas, possibly due to an issue tied to T-Mobile equipment that company is now investigating.

David Taffet was also at the news conference seeking answers after his husband, Brian Cross, died Saturday. Cross stopped breathing while taking a nap. Taffet said he performed CPR and called 911.

“After 20 minutes, the call dropped. I had to call back again," Taffet said. "City officials are not accepting responsibility for the death, but the mayor did offer his deepest sympathies."

Paramedics promptly arrived once his call finally got through, but Cross later died at a hospital.

The troublesome calls began in October and officials thought it had been resolved in January when they no longer saw a spike in the phantom calls, Broadnax said.

The city this week is increasing staffing levels at its 911 center and authorizing overtime shifts to ensure calls are being answered.

Rawlings said the problem means the city isn't performing one of its core functions: ensuring people's safety.

"As you can well imagine this situation is very frustrating," he said, adding, "This is the No. 1 priority we're facing right now as a city."

Neville Ray, T-Mobile's chief technology officer, said the company, which is based in Bellevue, Washington, hasn't seen a similar problem anywhere else in the country.

"Clearly we are seeing a set of circumstances in Dallas which are unique," he said.

Officials say engineers will examine how T-Mobile cellular technology and the city's 911 infrastructure interact with each other. Rawlings said one consideration is that the problem could be on the city 911 system's end.

T-Mobile says its team will remain in Dallas until the matter is resolved.

A state report released in 2014 by the Commission on State Emergency Communications notes 911 service will erode as new digital technology is introduced. The report says that's because existing 911 systems in Texas and other states are "based on wireline technologies established decades ago."

The phantom calls are happening at the same time Dallas-based AT&T experienced its own 911 problems. AT&T cellphone customers in Texas and other states were unable to call 911 for a time on March 8. The company has not explained the cause of the disruption.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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