New 911 problems vex Highlands folk


HIGHLANDS – Residents recently cited problems with the 911 Emergency Call system and prompted actions to alleviate those problems.

The day before Christmas Eve, a Highlands woman was victim of a burglary but she was informed that the 911 Dispatch Operator couldn’t find her home on their Key Map, and on Christmas morning, a long time Highlands resident ended up taking his wife to San Jacinto Methodist Hospital while she was having a heart attack after a 911 Operator began asking what seemed to the resident to be inappropriate questions.

According to Deacon Tittle, Assistant Chief of the Highlands Volunteer Fire Department, “We were unaware of any 911 problems until informed of these recent incidents, it seems that the problems we had a couple of years ago (when Alton Netherland’s house burned and no one could get through to us) have been corrected.”

Mendy McGhee returned from work and found her home had apparently been burglarized, the door was kicked in and the door frame broken. She dialed 911 on her cell phone and loaded her kids back into her van.

“You hear so many stories about someone returning home after a burglary, they go inside and are killed or something because the burglar is still there.” she said.

But, when speaking with the 911 Dispatch Operator, McGhee was stunned to hear that they were unable to find her location on the Key Map.

“I gave them lots of directions but they still couldn’t locate me on the map. I called my dad and he went to Gerlands Grocery Store and got a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy (that was patrolling in the parking lot) to follow him to my house.”

The deputy informed her that 911 Dispatch was sending units to her address on Gray Street in Houston.

Harris County Patrol District 3 said they have updated their maps to now include Center Street and Gray Street. The District’s communication director had said that if the caller had been using a land-line phone instead of a cell phone,then Harris County could trace the call’s location.

The Greater Harris County 911 Emergency Network attributed the error to District 3 Patrol “probably didn’t know the area.”

“They asked me if it was a new subdivision because it wasn’t on the map but I told them I had grown up on this street. It has been here since I’ve been around. I also asked them what would happen if the burglar tried to get me while I was on the phone and they told me to stay on the line that nothing would happen to me if I stayed on the line. I said, ‘Yeah, right.’”

The Star-Courier discovered that Gray Street in Highlands was listed in the index of streets as being on Page 480 but it should be listed as Page 460 instead. There is no Page 480 in the Key Map. The streets and areas around Gray St. that McGhee was directing them to are listed on Page 460-S. It was a typo – not nearly so complicated as a system breakdown or incompetent patrol units.

“I want the problem resolved, I don’t want this to happen to someone when their life is in danger.” said McGhee.

Johnny H. Marsh and his wife awoke Christmas morning and she reported having chest pains. Marsh indicates his wife is one that seldom complains so when she told him to ‘Get me to the hospital,’ – Marsh took it seriously. He gave her two aspirins and dialed 911.

“The guy on the 911 System started asking me too many weird questions. He acted like he was mad at having to be at work that day.” said Marsh.

The former combat medic back in 1966, Marsh, recalled, “He asked me ‘Are you two fighting? Have you been drinking?’ We weren’t but that had nothing to do with the situation – what we needed was an ambulance and I told him so. Then he asked me if my residence was a turn-key business and what was going on and again, if we were fighting or drinking. I finally said ‘I’m taking her to the hospital.’’’

“He then told me I couldn’t take her because we needed an ambulance. I said, ‘That’s what I’ve been saying but to hell with you we’re going to the hospital, you can send someone to escort us to San Jacinto Methodist in Baytown.” said Marsh.

Marsh recalled that at 6:45 a.m. his wife awakened. He placed the 911 call at 7:10 a.m. and by 7:15 they left the residence. At 7:30 a.m. they were at the hospital getting treatment.

“I was very impressed with the doctors at San Jacinto Methodist, they started working on her the minute we got there. The doctor ran an E.K.G. and said, ‘She’s still in cardiac arrest.’ They later told me she was going to make it but they said if it had been ten more minutes before she was treated, she wouldn’t have. They flew her to Hermann Hospital and in 20 minutes they had put in a splint. Then they discharged her back home out of C.C.U.”