This situation seems like something that you could only imagine in your most intense nightmares. Imagine being in the frantic situation where you need to dial 911 due to a life-threatening emergency, but can’t actually get through. After AT&T experienced a massive 911 service outage last week, we can now sadly report that T-Mobile is the latest wireless carrier to experience issues, ending with deadly results.
Over the weekend, the 911 system in Dallas became overloaded with so-called “ghost calls” originating from T-Mobile devices. The fake calls flooded the system so greatly that those with legitimate emergency concerns could not get through to a dispatcher.
“Whenever a T-Mobile customer calls 911, it creates ghost calls that the system records as 911 hang ups,” writes Dallas ABC affiliate WFFA. “It creates a bottleneck in the system as 911 operators respond to those “ghost” 911 hang ups. Callers end up getting put on hold as operators try to catch up.”
According to Dallas city officials, T-Mobile has been chasing down the bug in its network since November, but it has grown in its voracity over the past month. On Saturday night alone, over 440 calls were placed on hold due to overwhelming volume, with callers experiencing hold times that averaged a whopping 38 minutes.
Tragically, at least two deaths are being attributed to the system overload. A babysitter for a six-month-old boy (who was having breathing problems) couldn’t get through to a 911 operator after multiple attempts. On the third attempt, the babysitter was placed on hold for 30 minutes while another person performed CPR. The child was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.
In a second case, 52-year-old Brian Cross was fast asleep, snoring in his bed. When his husband, David Taffet, noticed that he stopped snoring and was not breathing, he attempted to call 911 for assistance. After his first call was disconnected, he called back only to be put on hold for 20 minutes. Once an operator was able to take his call and dispatch paramedics, it was already too late. He died at the hospital.
For its part, T-Mobile has sent engineers and executives to Dallas to evaluate the ghost call problem and “to further collaborate with the [911 center] team. These top engineers will not rest until the problem is resolved."
“This is an unacceptable situation and the citizens of Dallas deserve better,” said Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax who has spoken with T-Mobile CEO John Legere by phone. “With Mr. Legere’s commitment today, I’m hopeful T-Mobile can continue to work with the City of Dallas to finally resolve this situation so that we have a reliable 911 system that can properly serve the emergency needs of our citizens.”
These two deaths related to 911 service disruptions comes after AT&T experienced a five-hour outage across a dozen states during which its wireless customers were unable to connect with 911 dispatchers.