ECC: Locations available for Waffle House shooting calls; dispatch waited to send officers

Local News

An internal review at the Emergency Communications Center is now complete. The review was launched after News 2 began asking questions about why police were initially dispatched to the wrong Waffle House location the morning of the mass shooting. 

The ECC said Thursday accurate GPS coordinates were available within seconds for several people who called 911 from cell phones.  

The ECC sent News 2 the following timeline:  

  • Call 1’s coordinates were available 13 seconds before the call was received by dispatch.  
  • Call 2’s coordinates were available in the system 22 seconds before the call was received by dispatch. 
  • Call 3’s coordinates were available in the system 21 seconds before the call was received by dispatch. 
  • Call 4’s coordinates were available in the system 17 seconds before the call was received by dispatch. 
  • Call 5’s coordinates were available in the system 2 seconds after the call was received by dispatch. 

According to ECC Director Michele Donegan, the coordinates put the callers at the intersection of Summercrest Drive and Murfreesboro Road, which is the correct Waffle House location.  

The South precinct dispatcher sent police officers to the shooting two minutes after she received the information. It took the Hermitage dispatcher 20 seconds to dispatch an officer, even though it was to the wrong location. 

When asked if two minutes to dispatch was a long time, Donegan said it was hard to say. 

Donegan recently answered questions about the issue from Council Lady Jacobia Dowell, who represents the district where the shooting took place. 

“I know recently I saw the report about the Waffle House incident and the 911 call that was made there and being able to locate and identify the location based on mobile phone usage,” Dowell said at the council budget hearings last week. “Do we have the best technology in place to identify the location of people using mobile phones now?” 

Donegan answered “yes”. But what is that technology? 

Tennessee was one of the first states to put Next Generation 911 in place in 2012. Next Gen will allow those in crisis to text 911 or send video but that isn’t available yet. 

According to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which oversees emergency communications in Tennessee, the state is waiting for a software update through the network provider, AT&T. 

The state also said in an email that it has taken years to make the necessary upgrades to the systems across the state. Right now, the only piece of Next Gen that is being used is the ability to transfer 911 calls from one district to another. 

But the system alone will not make it easier for 911 operators to find your location. 

Dowell says its concerning. 

“It is disheartening because I know our emergency communications people work extremely hard dealing with the emergencies of our city,” she said. 

After Next Gen is fully functioning, it’s possible that further technology could be available for cell phone based location services. Perhaps 911 could find you as easily as Uber can. 

The Department of Commerce and Insurance says it hopes to make services like text to 911 available later this year. 

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