AT&T glitch with 911 a real hangup for Pittsburg : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Eric Heyl - August 19, 2000

AT&T glitch with 911 a real hangup AT&T can assist you in getting HBO or Cinemax. But if you need a police officer, fire truck or ambulance, the telecommunications giant isn't much help.

That's the word from emergency management types frustrated with AT&T Broadband, which sells local phone service that arrives through your AT&T cable connection.

Thanks to a mistake-riddled AT&T computer database, officials said, a number of local 911 calls have been rerouted to the wrong dispatch center in recent months. They believe disaster could strike if the problem isn't soon corrected.

"My concern is that it's only a matter of time before a customer has an emergency, calls 911 and gets another county on the phone who cannot send them aid in time," Allegheny County 911 Coordinator Brad Magill said.

"Someone could suffer a serious injury or die because of these type of errors."

Magill said AT&T's flawed database is causing a number of Allegheny County's 911 calls to be transferred to other counties. A specific number was unavailable because there is no requirement for such blunders to be logged.

But it happens often enough to anger Randy Dawson, a Beaver County Emergency Service Center supervisor. "This is incredibly sloppy record-keeping on the part of AT&T," he said.

An example:

AT&T records recently listed a customer on Franklin Avenue in Wilkinsburg as living on Franklin Avenue in Baden, Beaver County - about 25 miles from where she actually resided.

Allegheny County caught the error, and Magill told AT&T to revise the address. But the correction hadn't been made two weeks later, when the Wilkinsburg resident phoned 911 after a dog bite and the call was routed to Beaver County.

"Thankfully, that time it wasn't a critical call," Dawson said. "But we had to reroute the call. If it had been a life-threatening emergency, valuable time would have been lost."

The county often recognizes AT&T errors when the phone company sends information on new customers. But Magill said all he can do is notify AT&T and request the company correct its records so they can be integrated into the county 911 database.

The county could cancel its contract that permits AT&T access to the 911 database. But then all county AT&T Broadband customers would be left without 911 service, Magill said.

Gary Lane, AT&T Broadband vice president of operations, said the company is "going through an extensive review process to make our database absolutely accurate. We consider this to be an extremely important situation."

Magill and Dawson claim to have heard that from AT&T about as often as you've heard that prerecorded voice saying the number you have reached has been disconnected.

Lane, based in Denver, was unsure how many customers AT&T Broadband has in western Pennsylvania. A call to a local AT&T official was not returned.

Magill has contacted the state Public Utility Commission and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency about the problem, but neither agency has taken action.

While public safety appears to be at risk, I believe AT&T Cable Services is offering some fine discounts this month on premium channel upgrades. People tend to forgive a lot if provided inexpensive HBO or Cinemax.

Perhaps even delayed response time in reporting a stolen car, burning house or intense chest pain.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He can be reached at (412) 320-7857 or

-- Martin Thompson (, August 20, 2000


AT&T are the biggest crooks in the industry. I wouldnt use their service again if it were the only company on the planet regardless if it were telephone, cable or what ever; I would just do without. I've had way to many bad dealings with that group it makes me sick just to here the letters A-T-T.

-- Christopher (, August 21, 2000.

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