A glitch that causes the Dallas 911 system to receive “ghost calls” from T-Mobile cell phone numbers is preventing callers with real emergencies from getting through. So far, two people have died because they weren’t able to make contact with 911 using their T-Mobile phones.
News outlets, including the Washington Post, report that numerous emergency calls made by T-Mobile users have been blocked by the 911 system. According to the Post, calling Dallas 911 from a T-Mobile phone can generate calls that dial into 911 centers and hang up, placing legitimate emergency callers on hold, and forcing operators to attempt to call the phone numbers back.
At one point on March 6, the Post story says, 442 callers were placed on hold for an average of 38 minutes. On Tuesday, a Dallas mother claimed the 911 T-Mobile glitch led to the death of her six-month-old baby.
David Carey, executive vice president for T-Mobile spoke to reporters Wednesday.
“We will stay on this until it is fully resolved and everybody can rest comfortably that when they call 911 and they call for an emergency request for help, it will be addressed immediately,” he says.
Kelli Merriweather, executive director of the Commission on State Emergency Communications, says her agency believes the problem is limited to Dallas 911.
“As far as we know, this is only occurring in Dallas,” she says. “I have briefly been in touch with the other 911 entities across the state, and no one has experienced this type of thing. It does seem to be very unique to Dallas at this point in time,” she says.
Merriweather says the situation is difficult for those who work in emergency services.
“I am very, very concerned and I’m very, very sorry for everyone who has experienced loss due to the T-Mobile issue in Dallas,” she says. “I know that the entire Texas 911 community is upset and in mourning with the families as well as with the 911 call takers in the city of Dallas.”
T-Mobile’s inability to solve the problem frustrates Merriweather.
“I think it’s unacceptable that T-Mobile can’t fix its own system,” she says.
Merriweather places the ball squarely in the cell carrier’s court.
“I want to hear from T-Mobile that the problem has been fixed,” she says. “Then I would like to have a root cause after-report to understand what it is, what caused it, and to make sure that all the other 911 centers in Texas can take any kind of necessary precautions to ensure that it doesn’t happen in their areas. I would like to know why.”
For T-Mobile customers who are concerned about reaching 911 in an emergency, Merriweather has a suggestion.
“I think they should reach out to T-Mobile,” she says. “I think they should perhaps consider using a landline telephone to call 911, or some other alternate telephone to call 911 – should they need to. And I would suggest that they strongly voice their opinion with T-Mobile, if not with complaints, then with their pocketbooks.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.