Cell phone 911 glitch

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Last updated April 12, 2019

A recent cell phone call to 911, which was thankfully not an emergency, has highlighted a glitch which occasionally occurs where calls end up being sent to the wrong police agency.  A woman who had been involved in a traffic accident on Pontiac Trail in South Lyon called 911 to report the accident, where she was with her three children, only for police to take up to 45 minutes to respond to the incident, which fortunately involved property damage rather than a medical emergency.

Police Chief Lloyd Collins replied to the woman’s angry letter to the Herald by pointing out that his department actually took just three minutes to respond, but it took 42 minutes for them to get the call.  Whereabouts cell phone calls are made from in South Lyon determines to where the call is routed, as does the service that is provided by the various cell phone carriers.

“Depending on who you get your cell service phone from it could go to any of a number of cell phone towers,” Collins says.  “The programming of the cell phone towers tells the equipment which public safety answering point to route the 911 call to.” Collins says the issue is something “people need to be educated about” because it is a quirk of the technology and it is extremely difficult for any one agency to find a way to deal with it.