Dallas officials now say abandoned calls a source of 911 woes

The city of Dallas has backed away from its claim that a T-Mobile “ghost calling” glitch had flooded the city’s 911 call center and resulted in hundreds of calls being placed on hold.

Authorities initially believed that T-Mobile phones were somehow inundating 911 with ghost calls, which were automatically generated by a phone unbeknownst to its owner.

But officials said Thursday that it was actually abandoned 911 calls that were a source of the problem.

Callers would hang up after dialing 911 and dispatchers were then obligated to return the call to determine if there was an emergency. But that created a long backlog of calls.

Additional dispatchers will be added until changes can be implemented, including technological upgrades.

Officials have been criticized for delayed emergency responses that might have contributed to the deaths of two people.

Dallas resident David Taffet confronted Mayor Mike Rawlings at a news conference Wednesday to say it took 20 minutes to get through to 911 after his husband stopped breathing last week. At one point, Taffet was disconnected. He was placed on hold when he called back. Paramedics promptly arrived after he finally got through, but his husband later died at a hospital.

“I was just doing chest compressions on my husband and the call just dropped. I had to call back,” said Taffet, who at one point asked of the mayor, “How many others died?”

Rawlings said he apologized to the mother of a 6-month-old child who died during the weekend after falling from a bed. The child’s baby sitter tried calling 911 three times but kept being placed on hold.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax said Wednesday that at one point last week the city had 360 calls on hold.

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.”

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