Meriden - Cox hopes to remedy 911 glitch : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Meriden: Cox hopes to remedy 911 glitch

By Donna Porstner

Record-Journal staff

MERIDEN - Meriden dispatchers are worried that "flaws" in Cox Communications' phone customers' database information could become a safety problem for residents, especially those with health ailments.

Since the cable television company began its telephone service two years ago, dispatchers say, sometimes hang-ups on the 911 lines do not produce accurate addresses on their computer screens - particularly residents who subscribe to the Cox service.

Often the address given for a 911 caller is incorrect or missing and dispatchers do not know where to send help. In some instances, dispatchers say, the callers do not - or maybe cannot - pick up the receiver to relay that information themselves.

"We're not trying to bad-mouth a private company. ... It's a safety factor," said Fire Capt. William Leibe, communication supervisor for the city's Department of Fire and Emergency Services. "It's time; somebody's life could be in danger."

The same address problems happen with Southern New England Telephone, dispatchers said, except that SNET operators can trace the call to an address within minutes and then send help.

Dispatcher Diane Lawson said it's "sometimes hours" before Cox operators in Atlanta, Ga., return her calls for address information. Once when she worked a day shift, a Cox employee called to return address information from an emergency the night before, she said.

"Hours is not even acceptable," Lawson said. "The general public is not aware of the flaws."

Cox officials would not say how many customers the company has in Meriden. The company also serves Southington and Cheshire.

Dispatchers return every 911 hang-up to make sure it is not an emergency, and 75 percent of the time, Leibe says, it is an honest mistake or a child playing with the phone. But even so, a police officer is sent to the location to make sure no one is pressuring the caller to say he or she is fine.

So when the officer has the improper address, dispatchers said, the emergency could be going on elsewhere in town, ignored.

Lawson points to the murder-suicide at the Mattabassett condominium complex on the north end of town last month as rationale for the automatic address system.

Bonnie Youmell, 47, made a last effort to call 911 before her estranged husband shot her to death, but she hung up before she could explain what was happening in her home. Lawson said dispatchers traced the call that sent police to the scene of a murder-suicide.

Cox officials said they first heard of the address problems this week and hope to have the issues ironed-out Monday during a meeting with the Meriden Fire Department.

"We can't resolve issues we don't know about," said John Wolfe, vice president of governmental and public affairs for Cox's Northeast operations. "It's something that can be fixed very easily. ... It's frustrating if it's something that has been going on and we haven't heard of it. We've been doing this two years and this is the first we have heard of it."

Meriden Fire Chief William Dunn said he informed the state advisory committee for 911 service of the Cox address problem in the spring.

Scott Hightower, Cox's director of consumer broadband services, said it is standard procedure at the Cox operations center in Atlanta to address dispatchers' questions in the initial phone call.

"The center is a 24-hour center that is supposed to respond right away," he said. "We understand in a lifeline service that we have to respond right away."

After speaking with supervisors in the Atlanta office, Hightower said, "They didn't know of any instances where they didn't call back right away."

When the system fails, he says, there is a check in place. Dispatchers are asked to send written complaints to SNET, which maintains the 911 database for addresses, called the Master Street Address Guide. SNET then forwards all dispatch complaints to the resident's phone service provider such as Cox, Hightower explained.

SNET has sent only seven complaints of misinformation in the last 60 days - all from Meriden - Wolfe said. But some of those mistakes date back to early September and they arrived at Cox only Wednesday.

"It appears the information is not being sent to us in a timely manner," he said.

Wallingford Fire Chief Wayne Lefebvre said he is aware of address discrepancies with Cox customers through his former position on the statewide 911 advisory committee. Wallingford dispatchers may receive 911 calls from Cox customers in neighboring towns because emergency calls are routed to the closest dispatch center.

"We have seen it here in Wallingford but not to the same degree Meriden has," Lefebvre said, saying the town has had "a few instances" of incorrect addresses.

Dispatchers are warning residents not to call 911 to check their addresses, as that may tie up lines and prevent a true emergency from being reported.

SNET officials said their customers may dial 811 to verify 911 database information, but clients of other phone companies must contact their provider.

Cox customer service employees can verify addresses but cannot change information in a database maintained by SNET, Hightower said. Cox's toll-free customer service number is 1-888-222-7743; or call 203-439-4269.

local news index

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 29, 1999


And this to anybody who thinks that we are not subject to monitoring by the "parental state unit" - in this case, for good.

And in the next case?

Remember, the FBI has already been cited - and criticized, but has refused to stop the practice, of keeping ALL fingerprint request data to buy a firearm, despite the fact that the law does not require this data to be kept.

In fact, it expicitly requires that these request files be destroyed.......but since when has Reno's Injustice Dept followed the law?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 29, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ