Busy signal on 911? It could be your cell phone carrier

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    SNOCOM 911 operator workstations are state-of-the-art, with seven computer screens, emergency scanners, and several phone lines all linked via GPS and other technologies to instantly provide location and other information when calls come in.
    SNOCOM 911 operator workstations are state-of-the-art, with seven computer screens, emergency scanners, and several phone lines all linked via GPS and other technologies to instantly provide location and other information when calls come in.

    Have you ever dialed 911 and gotten a busy signal?

    Our online news partner My Edmonds News reported earlier this week that a good Samaritan, Colleen Daigle, got numerous busy signals when trying to contact 911 to report a car stranded on the railroad tracks at in Edmonds Monday evening (see article here.) Despite this, another bystander was able to get through to 911 on their cell phone.

    My Edmonds News contacted Terry Peterson, manager of the SNOCOM 911 Center in Mountlake Terrace, who made it a priority to look into the situation.

    “We certainly want to receive reports of attempts to reach 911 that did not go through,” he said. “SNOCOM staff will work closely with wireless carriers to make sure any problem is completely resolved.”

    Peterson reports that he searched the SNOCOM records and could not locate any 911 calls from Daigle’s number.

    “This tells me that her 911 calls never reached our network and never rang at the dispatch center,” Peterson said. “We contacted T-Mobile, the wireless carrier for her cell phone, who confirmed there was a configuration issue with the cell tower to which her phone was registered at the time she dialed 911.

    “SNOCOM is proud to serve our community and strives to quickly and efficiently answer and respond to every single 911 call we receive,” he said.  “We are staffed around the clock and process around 500 emergency calls each day.

    “I would also like to remind callers that anytime they receive a busy signal when dialing 911, it’s likely a phone carrier problem and to try making the call from another phone,” he added.  “Afterward, please notify either SNOCOM 911 at our administration phone number, 425-775-5201, or your local police department so we can investigate and track down the cause. This is very important to us.”

    Because the 911 system is designed to provide immediate response in emergency situations, Peterson asks that callers use the SNOCOM non-emergency number — 425-775-3000 — for cases in which there is no immediate danger to life or property.

    — Story and photo by Larry Vogel

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