FAQs: 911 call issue in Dallas
What is the difference between a ghost call and an abandoned call?
A ghost call is a term created to label the call queue symptoms the City’s 911 call center began experiencing in November 2016. The term was used by staff to communicate about the issues while working to identify what was happening, why it was happening, what started it and how to stop it.
As these ghost call incidents were further investigated, it was noted that they were only involving the T-Mobile carrier. After further investigation, it was determined that the issue was regarding abandoned calls. An abandoned call just means that someone called 911 and hung up before talking to a call taker. If the T-Mobile caller hung up the phone before talking to a call taker, the provider was automatically calling 911 back and overloading the system. The City’s 911 call handling protocol requires that a 911 call taker do a callback on all abandoned calls to verify whether emergency service is needed. The call takers were also getting incorrect information about the T-Mobile abandoned calls from T-Mobile and so they also had instances when they were calling back the wrong people and calling multiple times.
How many people are in the call center at a given time?
The call center schedules call takers according to the expected call volume for different shifts. In addition to the regular staff, the city has added a dozen call takers and another dozen individuals that will be calling back 911 abandoned calls. Because of security concerns for our 911 center, the City cannot release the exact numbers of call takers in the call center at any given time.
Does the City have plans to upgrade their 911 technology?
The City of Dallas consistently upgrades their software and technology. The last major upgrade was completed within the last year and half. They have a schedule for updates that are done routinely and on different pieces of equipment. The next major upgrade is later this year. AT&T is the service provider for the 911 call center and has run diagnostics on the equipment several times since this issue began and has confirmed every time that all the equipment in the 911 call center is running as it should.
Did abandoned calls come only from T-Mobile?
No. An abandoned call just means that the caller called 911 and hung up before talking to a call taker. Abandoned calls can come from any provider and happen often, every day. The abandoned calls that are causing the issues involved T-Mobile callers, but not all abandoned calls cause issues.
Is the City meeting the goal of answering 911 calls in 10 seconds or less?
The City is meeting that goal. The national standard is to answer 911 calls under 10 seconds 90% of the time.
What has T-Mobile changed and what has the City of Dallas changed to solve this problem?
The combination of issues addressed by the team includes network enhancements by T-Mobile, an increase in staffing capacity in the 911 call center as well as improvements by AT&T in the call center have contributed to positive results. Council approved more than $2 million in the FY16-17 budget for the City to upgrade the VESTA and the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) systems. These upgrades are still on track for this year. Engineers with T-Mobile, AT&T and the City collectively continue to monitor the situation in the 911 call center, both on-site and remotely.
Have there been other major incidents like the incident on March 6th since November 2016?
The City’s IT department has identified an increased in abandoned calls on Christmas Eve of 2016 as well as on March 11, 2017. These increased appeared to be related to the same issue as March 6, 2017.
Has the City of Dallas and T-Mobile found the source of the problem?
The source of the problem is an ongoing investigation. T-Mobile has made enhancements to its technology to help resolve the symptoms of the issue. The City has increased capacity to ensure we are better prepared to handle similar situations. There have been 12 additional call takers and 12 additional staffers added per day to assist with calls.
Can the City release any details about the investigation?
The City will not release information regarding an open investigation until it is completed. Once the investigation is complete, information that is not confidential can be released.
If I need to call 911, what should I do?
If you make a call to 911, please do not hang up. Stay on the line and a 911 call taker will assist you as soon as possible.