Dispatchers unaware of AT&T 911 problems during outage - WSMV News 4

Dispatchers unaware of AT&T 911 problems during outage

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(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)

The night of March 8, AT&T customers in Nashville and across the country were unable to call 911 from their cell phones.

The Channel 4 I-Team has learned that some dispatchers were unaware of the problem at the time.

For nearly five hours, thousands of people across the country were unable to get through to 911 dispatchers. Nashville resident Michael Dow was one of them. He was confused as to why he couldn’t get through after attempted to call 911 several times.

Dow was eventually able to get through to someone.

“Yes, is there something wrong with 911? I’ve been trying to call it for the last five minutes and it rings off the wall,” Dow told the dispatcher. “My wife is having a horrible time trying to breathe and I’m trying to get an ambulance here.”

“Not that I’m aware of. I just got off a 911 call, but we can send an ambulance to you,” the dispatcher replied.

Dow’s wife is now doing fine. The two are currently on vacation. He spoke to Channel 4 by phone about what he called one of the scariest moments he has ever had.

“I was frustrated because you’re always taught if you have a problem, call 911. I never got through. It was either a busy signal or it just rang,” Dow said.

After several minutes, Dow called the Metro Nashville Police Department directly. An officer was able to send an ambulance, but had no idea about the outage.

“I called from a different phone. This is the fifth time I’ve tried getting through, just FYI,” another woman said.

“Were you calling a 911 that you were trying to get through?” the dispatcher asked.

“Correct,” the woman replied.

“It was frustrating, especially seeing my wife try to breath and trying to get through and nothing happening,” Dow said.

The I-Team wanted to know what happened the night of March 8 and what AT&T is doing to prevent something like it from happening again. AT&T wouldn't answer our questions.

A spokesperson sent a statement saying:

Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected.

The night it happened, AT&T posted messages on Facebook and Twitter apologizing for the outage. One person commenting, “Why didn't we all receive a mass text alerting us AT&T customers?"

Nashville’s Emergency Communications Center also updated people via social media. But when the I-Team asked them about what happened, they directed us to AT&T, who had nothing to say other than their statement.

“They have to have a plan in place for an emergency service like that. They truly do, because while my wife is fine and it worked out well for us, it could've been much worse,” Dow said.

Taxpayers pay for emergency medical services like ambulances. That is one of many reasons why the Federal Communications Commission is now investigating what happened. One of the questions that remains is how many people total were unable to receive emergency services that night.

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