Memphis Police Communications had difficulties with the 9-1-1 phones lines Wednesday evening. After midnight the issue was resolved and all calls were handled as normal.
They released a statement that in the event of a true emergency to stay on the line when calling 9-1-1. Do not hang up and call again as the waiting period may be extended. They also advised the public they could use the fire department number for fire and medical emergencies for police emergencies.
The glitch in the 9-1-1 system could be at least partly to blame for the condition of a 4-year-old boy. He was seriously injured after his mother drove into a utility pole.
Police say she was drunk. Witnesses in Cordova attempted to call 9-1-1 for help, but their calls went answered for several minutes.
The State of Tennessee is upgrading its 9-1-1 network and during a short period of time Wednesday evening emergency calls weren't being answered immediately.
"I was out mowing the yard, heard a real loud boom," recalls David Lundsford.
The sound was from 26-year-old Mary Cavitch slamming her car into a utility pole in Sanga directly in front of Cordova Elementary just after 8 p.m. on Wednesday night. The police affidavit shows Cavitch had consumed a half bottle of vodka. She had two children in the car - a 4-year-old boy in the front seat and a 3-year-old in the backseat.
Lundsford said he ran over and immediately called 9-1-1.
"It rang and rang and rang," he said. "No answer, so the next best thing I thought was to call the area precinct."
The fire station is less than a quarter of a mile from the accident scene. Lundsford says he called 9-1-1, but the calls rang repeatedly because the 9-1-1 system was down, which meant it took a while before they ever answered the call.
"Incredulous would really be the word. There really is no word," Lundsford said.
Word from the Shelby County Emergency Communications District was that the state's 9-1-1 network had a glitch where the system started making phantom calls.
"So the call taker had to take the time to answer those and determine if it was a real call or try to attempt to call them back," said Raymond Chiozza, manager of the Shelby County Emergency Communications District. "So there were many of those coming in at one time. It delayed answering the other calls."
Chiozza said the system was down between 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening.
"We were trying to do everything we could co to contact everyone we knew to contact to come up with a solution for the problem," he added.
This was the first incident with the state system. Even so, it was of little comfort to Lundsford..
"It's really unacceptable because Memphis is a big city," said Lundsford, "and not only in this situation there were probably other calls for other situations coming in and people lives were on the line.. We're too technologically advanced not to be able to do something that will help save lives."
The state is revamping its 9-1-1 next generation network, so callers will eventually be able to send text messages, picture or even video, Chiozza said.
The Memphis Police Department provided two alternate numbers to reach emergency personnel:
The Memphis Fire Department for fire and medical emergencies at 901-458-3311.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement emergencies at 901-379-7625