The investigation began after they were informed of a St. Cloud woman who repeatedly got a busy signal when trying to call 911 during an emergency.
Ana Range was standing outside her apartment around 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 12 when a woman came down the sidewalk.
“She walked up to me and explained that she was hurt and needed to go to the hospital,” said Range.
Range said the woman reported that she had fallen on the ice but couldn’t remember anything.
Range sat her down and pulled out her phone. ”I’m dialing 911 and I’m not getting through. I’m getting a busy signal,” she said.
Range said she tried 6 to 10 times to get through to 911. ”I just kept hitting redial.”
Then she noticed that the woman’s condition was worsening. She gave up dialing 911 and drove the woman to the hospital, where she had a seizure.
It was a serious medical emergency and Range was concerned that she wasn’t able to reach 911. “I was scared. I live by myself so if something really bad happens, 911 is really the only way I have to get help.”
The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office has been working to determine the cause of the busy signal.
“We’ve notified our Information Services department and they’ve been working with me to try to locate a reason for it,” said Kathy Struffert, Dispatch Supervisor.
But Struffert says nothing indicates the problem came from the Stearns County dispatch.
“On our end, we couldn’t find any reason. There was no system overload, and we were receiving 911 calls as well as calls on our non-emergency lines before and after that time period.”
Struffert said 911 calls made to the dispatch roll over to the non-emergency lines if too many 911 calls are made at the same time.
“It’s always possible that someone might get a busy signal,” Struffert said, “But it is a rare occurrence.”
Struffert believes that this particular occurrence “wasn’t from our end.”
Struffert said the dispatch got a new digital phone system in December. ”We had a couple of issues since then, but they were resolved within the hour. It’s no longer an issue.”
Struffert is working with the Information Services department to try to determine what might have caused Range to get busy signals. She said it is likely due to issues with a cell phone provider, but nothing is certain.
Struffert said it is a good idea to have the non-emergency number programmed into your phone. The number for the Stearns County non-emergency line is 320-251-4240.
“We take this very seriously because 911 is the go-to number for everyone when they need help.”