By Melissa Garcia
DENVER (CBS4)– Denver’s 911 call center is seeing an increase in T-mobile “looping calls” that the director says are responsible for jamming up lines during some of the center’s busiest periods.
The glitch is reported to have caused delays at emergency call centers in both Denver and Dallas.
Family members have blamed the increased hold times for two deaths in Dallas.
Athena Butler, Executive Director of Denver 911, said that a problem with T-Mobile’s technology is to blame for the issue.
According to Butler, the glitch is triggered after a caller dials 911 from a T-Mobile phone. After the caller gets the help he or she needs, the glitch causes the same phone to ring in a series of hang-up calls to 911, flooding the dispatch system and its resources.
911 dispatchers are required by law to return hang-up calls.
“So then, the 911 call takers are calling them back, only to find out, they’ve already called, and we’ve already handled their issue,” Butler said.
The multiple callbacks, paired with new incoming calls, cause the emergency lines to get clogged, she explained.
“Other people who are calling 911 for legitimate service may be on hold while we’re calling people back until somebody’s free to take that next call,” Butler said.
Butler said that Denver’s 911 call center was receiving looping calls on Feb. 12 when the victim of an armed robbery at the Lincoln Market in Denver’s Whittier neighborhood waited on hold for 17 minutes before he was able to get through to a dispatcher to request help.
The number of looping calls to 911 Denver have decreased dramatically since September 2016, when tracking began and tallied 127 in the last two weeks of the month.
Since reaching a low of 11 in December, the number of looping calls each month in 2017 has begun to rise in small increments.
Butler said that T-Mobile has been working closely with Denver’s 911 center since last summer and that the problem had greatly improved.
She said that the center will continue working with the cellular service provider to get the number of looping calls down to zero.
“There is an urgency to really try to figure out what is causing this issue,” Butler said.
CBS4’s Melissa Garcia attempted to contact T-Mobile about the glitch in Denver but had not heard back as of Thursday evening.
Butler advises callers who are put on hold to remain on the line and not to hang up.
While waiting for a dispatcher to answer, someone else can send a text message to 911.