The Investigators

Oct 26, 2012 12:59 AM

Emergency call routed 200 miles away

TUCSON - If you ever had to make a 9-1-1 call it's a stressful situation.

Now just imagine you make a call to 9-1-1 but instead of reaching help nearby, you are unknowingly talking to a dispatcher hundreds of miles away possibly delaying the help you need.

It happened to a Tucson man. So the News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to find out how and what are authorities doing to fix the problem.

"There was a man walking to take his seat and he just missed stepped and he fell down and cracked his head." The man who made that emergency call did not want to be indentified in this story but he was willing to tell us about the experience.

The man who fell was seriously injured, bleeding from his head.

"I decided I would jump on the phone and call 911." He made that call from a cell phone with a standard provider. I(t was not an internet based VoIP system)

The Investigators obtained a recording of the 9-1-1 call but we didn't find it in Arizona. We received the recording from a 9-1-1 operations center in New Mexico.

Here's how it went down: the caller provided the address of the incident on East Broadway then confusion kicks in. Precious moments tick away as the dispatcher tries to determine the location. Then at 1:24 into the call this exchange:

Caller: It's by Park Mall on Broadway and Wilmot.
Dispatcher: In Deming right?
Caller: In Tucson.
Dispatcher: In Tucson?.
Caller: Tucson, Arizona.
Dispatcher: OK this is Deming....New Mexico.

Fortunately for the patient another person also made a 9-1-1 call and Tucson Fire responded.

So how was a 9-1-1 call routed 215 miles away?

The Investigators went to Phoenix to ask Barbara Jaeger this question. She is Arizona's 9-1-1 Administrator. Jaeger tells us she's never heard of a 9-1-1 call misrouted this far away and she says wireless technology is complicated.

"It could be within the cellular network. It could be within at the mobile switching center."

The Investigators discovered the provider AT&T was performing routine maintenance at the facility where this call was routed.

AT&T declined an on camera interview with the Investigators but they did provide this statement via email:

"This was an isolated issue caused when the call was routed incorrectly by the wireless switching center serving the area. We worked quickly to resolve it more than seven weeks ago, and we've had no reports of similar issues since that time. We apologize for the confusion it caused for this caller."


Jaeger tells us, next generation technology will help pinpoint the exact the location of where a call is made. That technology is already in the process of being implemented.


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