Illinois man transferred multiple times while trying to call 911 from cell phone

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by Elizabeth Eisele/ KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on March 14, 2014 at 9:37 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 14 at 10:46 PM

(KMOV.com) -- A neighbor in Venice, Illinois, used his cell phone to call emergency personnel when he saw a house on fire. But Glen Gilmore says he received the runaround when he was transferred to three times and wasted time.

Emergency officials said anyone who uses a cell phone to call 911 needs to know that they call could end up in the wrong place. A cell phone call isn’t nearly as reliable as a land line.

On Thursday, Gilmore said he saw fire destroy a neighbor’s garage and flames moved across the yard to his house, but his call to 911 didn’t bring any help.

“It sent me to St. Louis, to a dispatcher there,” Gilmore said, “The dispatcher there said I need to call Illinois.”

Gilmore’s call from Venice was routed to St. Louis and then to Granite City. He said he hung up and called police directly.

St. Clair County said nearly 80percent of 911 calls come from cell phones and don’t always get to the right place.

“It’s not like a home phone,” said Bill Gamblin with St. Clair County Emergency System, “They’re going to have to be prepared to say, this is where I am and this is what I have, and be prepared to say that a second time if they’re transferred.”

The head of St. Clair County’s 911 Dispatch Center said the age of a phone, the cell service provider, how the cell towers are programmed and even the weather can effect where calls are routed. Dispatchers are trained to transfer calls quickly and cell companies are working on better technology. Gamblin said he thinks the issue is the cost and expense.

Gamblin also said most calls end up in the right place, but callers need to be prepared for the possibility they won’t. 

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