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DIGGING DEEPER PREVIEW: Cell phones create delayed response for 911 calls in Winnebago County

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911 Dispatch Calls

ROCKFORD (WREX) — When you call 911 in an emergency, you're depending on a quick response from first responders. But in Winnebago County, certain technology is making that difficult for the people trying to connect you with help.

According to the Rockford Fire Department, in 2018 roughly 12 percent of all of its 911 calls came in from a landline with 88 percent coming in from a cellphone.

However, these mobile phone calls did not always get sent to the correct dispatch center.

"It comes off a cell phone tower," said City of Rockford 911 Division Administrator Leigh Sterrenberg. "We still have the latitude/longitude of your location. It can bounce off the tower, depending on the sectors in the tower and how they're directed, it can go to any type of location whether the location is busy or not. It will take the sectors and where the majority of addresses in that sector of the cellphone tower are that's the sector it will take your cellphone to. Not every address in that sector is in the city of Rockford."

In the City of Rockford, this means some calls are being sent incorrectly to the Winnebago County Dispatch Center and vice versa.

According to the fire department, it transfers roughly eight 911 calls to the county every day. It says in return, the county transfers roughly 19 calls to the city a day.

So why does this matter to you? 911 administrators say these transfers come with inherent delays.

"Of those calls the average delay in the time we receive the call to when the county center picks it up is 56 seconds. So there's a delay right there."

Tune in to 13 News at 10 on Wednesday as we dig deeper in to the dispatch delay, and problems you might encounter when you need help the most.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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