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T-Mobile scrambles as 911 outage leaves two dead in Texas

Published Mar 16th, 2017 7:08PM EDT
T-Mobile coverage
Image: T-Mobile

We take it for granted that if you pick up a phone and dial 911, someone will pick up at the other end. That hasn’t been happening recently in Texas, and T-Mobile is left standing naked in the spotlight after a series of errors left 911 calls on hold, and two people dead.

The Dallas 911 system has been flooded with “ghost calls” from T-Mobile subscribers recently. The 911 switchboard records a call from a number that instantly hangs up. It floods the incoming phone lines, but also means that the 911 operators have to dial the number back, as it could be someone in danger. The end result is that legitimate 911 users have been immediately disconnected when they dial 911, or at best placed on hold for 20 minutes.

This has come to a head in two sad incidents. In the first, David Taffet noticed that his husband had stopped breathing and called 911. He was immediately disconnected and it took him 20 minutes to reach a 911 operator. By the time his husband made it to the hospital, he was dead.

In the second case, a babysitter was on hold for 30 minutes while trying to get help for an infant. The baby was eventually taken to two area hospitals, but died.

Talking to KCENTV, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said “This is an unacceptable situation and the citizens of Dallas deserve better. 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.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has pledged to send “top engineers” to the city to take care of the problem. This isn’t the first time T-Mobile has faced 911 issues; in 2015, it was fined $17.5 million by the FCC for nationwide 911 outages.