Technology Tangles 911 Calls

By: Michelle Peltier
By: Michelle Peltier

If you call 911 on a cell phone you may not be able to hear the operator 100 percent. And worse, they may not be able to hear you.

It's not a new problem, and according to the College Station Police Department it appears to be happening all over the nation.

The problem is called voice blanking. During voice blanking, parts of the conversation become garbled.

Zeta Fail with the College Station Police Department says it sounds like you have a bad cell phone connection, but you don't.

What happens is your cell phone transmits both your location and your voice along the same communication path. Dispatchers say that causes a pattern of about two seconds on and two seconds off. It often happens between the first two to 16 seconds, and many times the result is the initial part of a call has to be repeated.

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is aware of instances throughout the country where this is occurring. NENA is working with cellular carriers to address the problem, but there does not seem to be a quick fix.

If this happens to you, police are asking you not to hang up, and to be patient. In the meantime, if at all possible, use a land line to call 911.


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