DALLAS - The city of Dallas now says the problems plaguing its 911 system have not been ‘ghost calls’ but instead calls being abandoned by people who dial in.
Until now, the city described recent surges in 911 calls as automatic, unintentional calls from T-Mobile customers. But the newest update from the city now suggests people are hanging up or being disconnected in large numbers.
The update did not explain why the call surges are happening, but the city is adding more people to answer the phones.
Late Thursday afternoon, the city said T-Mobile has made progress in identifying the 911 problem. The city says it is adding a dozen extra 911 call takers each day until the problem is fixed.
There are at least two deaths that could possibly be tied to the backup at the 911 call center. For one man, getting to the bottom of it is personal.
David Taffet, a Dallas Boice writer, says there is still no word from city hall or T-Mobile after he confronted officials Wednesday during a news conference on the 911 call problem, which he believes contributed to his husband's death on March 6.
“I've heard nothing, and they told me they'd keep me informed of what's going on,” Taffet said. “The mayor has met my husband. So I figured, let's make this real personal — somebody that he knows died.”
Taffet says as he performed CPR, his call to 911 was dropped. It took him 20 minutes to finally get through.
“I was frustrated,” he said. “I'm screaming at the phone. I'm screaming at him, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ I was just frantic.”
Taffet is not a T-Mobile customer but may have gotten caught up in the 911 system that was hit hard that evening by a spike in calls.
A memo to city council says at one point there were 360 calls on hold, each for 30 minutes.
Councilman Philip Kingston is on the Public Safety Committee and says the Federal Communications Commission should do more to help.
“This is the entity that requires the city to buy expensive 911 equipment, and it requires carriers to collect 911 fees from customers,” Kingston said. “Yet when it comes time for accountability, they're nowhere to be found.”
Kingston adds taxpayers should not pay for the extra call center staff when the city is already in a public safety crisis.
“They are stretched very thin,” he said. “And so the value of those officers’ time should definitely be sought from T-Mobile.”
Taffet says he doesn't know if things might be different had help arrived sooner, but that's not the point.
“Even if there's nothing that could have been done for Bryan, there is something that could be done for other people,” he said.
The city did also say it is pursuing technology upgrades for the 911 call center.
FOX 4 reached out to 14 North Texas cities, and all but one has gotten back to us. The 13 we heard from report that they are not having the same issue.