911 'Ghost Call' Issue Linked To Two Recent Dallas-Area Deaths
T-Mobile has dispatched engineers to address to problem.
Cell phones are responsible for the occasional 911 outages here in the United States, and recent reports seem to show that the situation isn't improving. According to the Dallas Morning News, one adult and one infant died just last week due to emergency 911 calls not being properly handled.
The issue boils down to a malfunction between 911 call centers and cell carrier services: Dallas Morning News reports that 911 calls placed on T-Mobile phones in particular result in the devices continuously dialing 911, which registers as multiple hang-ups at the call center. This forces 911 dispatchers to call the numbers back in order to verify the calls, which leads to people with legitimate emergencies being put on hold.
This problem factored into the death of a six-month-old child last Saturday when the infant's babysitter couldn't get through to a 911 call center. Phone records showed that the child's babysitter was on hold for a total of over 41 minutes. A similar situation occurred last week with 52-year-old Brian Cross, who husband was initially disconnected and later put on a 20 minute hold after Cross stopped breathing. Though paramedics rushed to the scene after the call completed, Cross died later in the hospital.
Local ABC news affiliate WFAA reports that 442 Dallas-area callers were put on hold for an average of 38 minutes' time this past Saturday alone. According to reports, the "ghost calling" glitch has been an intermittent issue since November and has grown to be much more problematic in the months since.
Though the issue isn't necessarily carrier-specific, T-Mobile seems to be particularly troublesome in this regard, as the carrier had two massive outages in 2014 preventing users from contacting emergency services. The company was taken to court over the outages, which resulted in T-Mobile shelling out a $17.5 million settlement last year. Word of the Dallas area's recent issues have reached T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who agreed to "send his top engineers to Dallas" in order to address the problems. Though the team hasn't yet discovered the source of the problem, Legere insisted that the engineers would "stay in the city until the issue is resolved."