“It has identified an issue that would be unknown to most people,'' said Keith Dameron, vice president for IberiaBank on Marco Island. "This routing code is one of the significant communication requirements between a business and getting to 911.”
MARCO ISLAND — When a man became ill at a Marco Island bank earlier this month, Keith Dameron made the obvious call to 911 from an office land line.
Instead of a Collier County emergency dispatcher though, the bank's vice president got one on the line from Manatee County, near Tampa. The 911 operator on the line didn't know where Marco Island was.
"It was bizarre," said Dameron, especially because in six years at the bank, other emergency calls he made went through directly to local emergency personnel.
Though the Manatee dispatcher ultimately got Collier authorities on the phone and the man was transported to the hospital, Dameron was left scratching his head. He was furious with the 911 system.
But the problem on Nov. 4 wasn't with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, he discovered in the following days. A glitch was in IberiaBank's phone system, so he's now encouraging businesses to double-check their phone systems to be sure where their emergency calls are routed.
Like many businesses, Dameron's bank uses a private branch exchange to manage internal calls.
The system allows for abbreviated extensions to be used within a company, and can sometimes require dialing an additional number, like 9, to reach numbers outside of the premises.
Emergency calls also must be configured in a company's internal phone system, explained Bob Finney III, a technical manager for the Collier County Sheriff's Office 911 center. In a report responding to Dameron's initial complaint, Finney detailed how the problem occurred at the bank. An incorrect routing code programmed into the bank's phone system sent the call through a branch office in the Sarasota area.
Emergency calls must be configured in a company's internal phone system, explained Bob Finney III, a technical manager for the Collier County Sheriff's Office 911 center.
In a report, Finney detailed how the problem occurred at the IberiaBank on Marco Island. An incorrect routing code programmed into the bank's phone system sent the call through a branch office in the Sarasota area.
Dameron said an internal review was unsuccessful in determining why or when the routing code was changed.
"There is no way to go back and find what happened," Dameron said. "It has identified an issue that would be unknown to most people. This routing code is one of the significant communication requirements between a business and getting to 911."
The code can direct calls to different offices — and wind up in different emergency response jurisdictions.
While emergency calls from a cell phone may be routed to a neighboring county based on the caller's location and carrier, "this very rarely occurs with land-line telephones under normal conditions," Finney explained.
The Sheriff's Office investigated the issue for that reason.
In the seconds it takes to dial the emergency number and hear a dispatcher, the telecommunications path can be complicated. An emergency that is reported from a land line in a residence may be easy to track geographically, but wireless communications and internally administered commercial phone systems can add hurdles.
The internal investigation into the bank's phone system by its communications team revealed the problem after the fact. However, Dameron thinks that other businesses with internal phone systems and branches in other areas should be alerted to the potential for a problem in an emergency situation.
"It has surfaced a potential issue for businesses with multiple locations to stop and think about," Dameron said.
In addition to the internal review of routing codes, he said he will implement quarterly emergency test calls at the Marco Island bank to identify any problems getting in touch with emergency personnel. An emergency situation isn't the time to find out there is a problem.
"When you need 'em, you need 'em," he added.