911 mix up: Avoid calling 911 from your cell phone, USE a land line if possible

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by 63dot, Jun 30, 2009.

  1. 63dot macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    When a 911 call is dialed from a cell phone, it is routed in my area to a Highway Patrol Station doubling as a 911 call in a nearby state west of the Mississippi in a computer generated cue.

    My wife got hit by a car as a pedestrian (Marina, California) and I called 911 and gave the location of the accident, street number, street name, city, and state. The idiot on the other line didn't believe such a place existed since Google or their database didn't show a location I referred to. That location exists though I admit it's not as big as neighboring larger cities like San Jose and San Francisco, California.

    They were not interested in the fact that there was an accident, or an injury, or that it occurred with three different callers calling in the location and circumstances of the same accident.

    The Highway Patrol 911 stand in was more interested in yelling at me, telling me that there was no such street, and no such city in California as they could not find it. They wanted to know the age of the other driver, the color of their car, my social security number, my birthday, my residence, my California driver's license number, but would not listen to where the accident was, that there were injuries, and that yes, there is a city called Marina in Northern California.

    When their computer system does not register such a city, they cut me off after yelling at me and refusing to hear anybody's call.

    For those of you who don't know, Marina is a city south of San Jose, California and north of Los Angeles. It may not be on every map or computer database, but I couldn't believe the attitude of the California Highway Patrol Officer just because they couldn't locate this medium sized city.

    So if you have a 911 call, make sure you do it from a land line, because all 911 calls from land lines go to "local" 911 operators trained in the subject and not incompetent Highway Patrol Officers who are very good at what they do, except work as stand in emergency 911 operators.
  2. bartelby macrumors Core


    Jun 16, 2004
    Sounds a bit of a crap system.

    More importantly, how's your wife?
  3. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Should have told the "****head" ;) on the 911 line to send a police car to arrest you at the scene of the accident at the street that doesn't exist.
  4. kymac macrumors 6502a


    Nov 4, 2006
    is there a source to prove your claim that this is how it works for every city in the country?
  5. 63dot thread starter macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    Only a bruise and a small fracture on her pinky. Thanks for the concern.

    It's scary if it was, let's say a heart attack or stroke, and somebody was alone and called from a cell phone. Since a cell phone is mobile, it doesn't tell the emergency people where the caller is.

    So in about 30+ or so states, AT&T calls from cell phones relating to 911 calls go to a 911 alternate call center handled by first California Highway Patrol center available, then State Troopers or Highway Patrols of the next western states, but barring that, mountain, or midwestern states in the call cue.
  6. mscriv macrumors 601


    Aug 14, 2008
    Dallas, Texas
    How ridiculous! :mad: Marina, California comes right up on Google Maps. Just under San Jose as you said. I found it in three seconds. Sorry about your trouble. I hope your wife is okay. Sounds like you should file a complaint or something. Maybe request the recording of your call?
  7. 63dot thread starter macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    The police officer and EMT said this was the 911 system in the cue system in the west. I cannot speak for the East Coast. When I worked for the hospital in the 90s, cell phones were not that common, and when I worked for a law enforcement agency, it was the 1980s, so it was the dark ages.

    All I can say is I hope there is a better system in the future. The EMT/fire/police team in Marina was called to an accident by the Highway Patrol or out of state State Trooper/Highway Patrol for a case in Marina Del Rey. That's the same state, but many miles away from the city of "Marina". :)

    The police/fire/EMT thought the system was broken, too. They themselves did an excellent job. I wish there was some technology that can track a 911 call from a cell phone someday.

    Again, what if you are alone and you get injured and all you have is your cell phone? What if you have no energy to argue with a highway patrol man/woman not trained for calls, but for stopping speeders and keeping the roadways safe.

    I think, possibly, it could be the state of California's cash strapped economy and it's nobody's fault per se, but a bad system brought upon by lack of funds. Who really knows? It's a major kink in the system. When I called 911 later, they also mentioned that sometimes the first call responders are the highway officers, and not specifically trained 911 operators.
  8. JNB macrumors 604


    Oct 7, 2004
    In a Hell predominately of my own making
    Being intimately familiar with 911 operations from both sides of the process, and within California in particular, your experience is an extreme exception to the rule, and possibly ill-advised as a general suggestion.

    In the "old days," cell phone calls had nothing more than the number, but cell-based location is fairly common within the network if not to the handset, so advising to call only from landlines is contrary to sound practice in an emergency.

    Your experience was unacceptable but I think your generalizations are incorrect in the larger sense. Any person needing emergency assistance should not hesistate in calling 911, regardless of the originating location. If a landline is more readily accessible, absolutely, but I wouldn't spend precious minutes hunting one down.
  9. sushi Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    Most interesting situation and result.

    Sounds like a disconnect.

    Glad to hear that your wife is okay.
  10. 63dot thread starter macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    I did and talked to the supervisor. I will also talk to my classmate in law school who is a local 911 operator supervisor. The 911 operator said that this is the way it was here. Now your experiences in your region of the country may be different, but for the western states, according to police, fire, EMT, and the local county 911 operator supervisor, this is what we have.

    (PS)- Sorry about my previous version of this post here if I said anything against you that was insulting.
  11. zrbecker macrumors member

    Jun 28, 2009
    Wow, I knew the cell phone system operated like that in regards to 911, but the reaction of the highway patrol is outrageous. I will be sure to use a land line if possible. Do they still have those call boxes on the side of the road? I wonder if those go to the highway patrol aswell.
  12. coolwater macrumors 6502a


    Jun 8, 2009
    I'd like to believe your experience as an isolated exception.

    911 calls are emergency calls. You really don't have time to find a land line phone.

    Good to know that your wife is doing okay though.
  13. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    There are lots of really small townships north of where I live, and even if I've never heard of it, I'm sure if you just told me to drive north on highway 123 for 20 minutes, I'm certain that I'd be able to find it.

    I think the cop you dealt with is a moron. It's nothing more than that. People should call 911 in an emergency, even if there's a chance you'll deal with a moron.
  14. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    I was in a car accident and called 911 from an AT&T cell phone, I don't know where the operator was located, but when I told him where we were, he knew exactly what I was talking about and the police were there in 2 minutes.
  15. spaceboots06 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2009
    The Rotten Apple
    I smell lawsuit and it smells good.

    Put your wife in a body cast and your friend in doctors robes + give him a clipboard. Then go right on to claim the money for damages because the authorities couldn't make it in time and your doctor friend thinks the injuries didn't need to be aggravated, as they were.
  16. TJRiver macrumors 6502


    Jan 14, 2009
    Yeeeaaahhh, that's the ticket. Let me know where it's filed so I can watch the fireworks!:D
  17. djjclark macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2008
    The 911 calls in the bay area used to go to a Vallejo system and while local was probably at times no better then someone in Mississippi. What you really want to do is put in to your phone is the local emergency numbers for the common areas you will be in. For the Bay area try these http://www.getice.com/news/emergencynumbers
  18. Gelfin macrumors 68020


    Sep 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    I'd like to believe in your experience here, but I've heard stories similar to 63dot's from too many other people. It's sort of common wisdom around here to caution people to look up the local police department numbers for whatever California cities they travel to and to call them directly if you have an emergency and only have a cell phone. 911 calls from a cell phone go to a CHP system that seems to be simply inadequate, possibly dangerously so.
  19. ErikCLDR macrumors 68000

    Jan 14, 2007
    That problem really should be addressed, especially the officer's attitude on the phone.

    I know that if you call 911 from my house on a cell phone you get Massachusetts police. One time my mom had to call the police from my house on a cell phone and the MA police said they would transfer her but she waited for 15 minutes on hold.
  20. iPhoneNYC macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2007
    There are times when the best thing one can do is call 911 from a cell phone. Quick action is what is needed. This is an odd wrinkle in the system.
  21. killerrobot macrumors 68020


    Jun 7, 2007
    Perhaps there was some typing error on the operators end that showed that the street name didn't exist.

    I'm glad your wife is okay but it seems a bit weird to advise people not to call 911 during an emergency - perhaps a title change might be in order. "Cellphone 911 emergency kerfuffle".

    I've used my cellphone several times in CA (LA) to reports accidents / drunk drivers. I've never had a problem.
  22. 63dot thread starter macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    Good point, I changed the title, though I don't know what "kerfluffle" means. ;)

    Anyway, the wife is OK, though she's angry that I didn't see the car coming since for a split second I was looking the other way.

    When I talked to 911, they told me that the Highway Patrol station that took the call could be very far away, but still likely in California, so they needed one other piece of information besides street, number, city, and state. They also needed the county.

    It turns out two other bystanders called first, one from a land line, so Marina fire department and ambulance was on their way. In the mad rush, I had to have missed the statement that help was on the way, or the operator forgot to tell me, but the county of origin was a needed fact for the records since the Highway Patrol was nowhere near Monterey County. As explained to me, it could have been the "Marina" meaning the big one near Los Angeles, or Marina Del Rey. They apologized, but at the same time, told me when using a cell, I may not get a 911 operator so I should always be prepared to mention the county, too.

    My anger towards any misunderstanding from Highway Patrol or posters here on this forum was not well supported so I apologize if I was tense.

    After the basic information and arriving at the scene or being on their way, the Highway Patrol needs certain information above and beyond what the regular 911 operators need, including make and model of the perpetrator's car, their license plate number, description of driver and any passengers, clothing and color they were wearing, identifying stickers or license plate statements, so if they fled the scene, then they can find the perpetrator. The 20 questions game made sense since the FD and ambulance were already on their way.

    Anyway, to everybody, thanks for your concern.
  23. 63dot thread starter macrumors 603


    Jun 12, 2006
    Point well taken, Gelfin. I should have called information and directly got the Marina Fire Department. I was panicked as many would be if they saw their wife/husband smashed between two cars, so I called 911 not thinking that their would be no way to trace my location. God forbid, but let's say I was alone and having a heart attack and I called 911 from a cell but passed out before I could relay location, then I would be dead for sure. At least a land line is able to get traced in all areas.

    The California Legislature has made a move to make cell phones able to be traced but the true implementation of that (related to the Patriot Act) will take quite some time to blanket the whole state. I do understand those who are against it thinking this is an overreach of the Patriot Act, and the most vocal opponents would be my ultra liberal fellow law students. I am very, very liberal but in the context of the typical law students I sit next to, I seem to be considered right wing. ;)
  24. apsterling macrumors 6502a


    Nov 24, 2007
    Odd, a few months out a friend and I were witness to a car accident and dialed 911 (even though it was just outside a precinct) and had no problems getting through.

Share This Page