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911 Official: Cell Phone Call Part Of Problem In EMS Delayed Response

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JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — A Johnston County woman says it took too long for emergency workers to respond to her daughter-in-law's request for help.

Deborah Ellis' husband, John, was recovering at home from minor heart surgery in January when he started having chest pains. Ellis' daughter-in-law called 911 from a cellular phone and was transferred at least three times before an EMS crew responded.

Ellis claims it took more than an hour to get help -- her husband died at the hospital.

"If someone had got there quicker than they did, I believe he would still be alive," Ellis said.

But Delbert Edwards, with the Wayne County 911 Communications Center, said from the time the dispatch received the call, it was only nine minutes before an ambulance was at the scene.

Emergency officials said part of the problem was that Ellis' daughter-in-law called 911 from a cell phone. They said that the call was transferred multiple times because she lives in an area -- where Johnston, Wilson and Wayne counties meet -- where a call can hit several cellular towers depending on where the caller is.

"(Cellular) technology is getting better, but still, when you get into these rural outlying areas that are close to county lines, that's going to happen from time to time," Edwards said.

Officials, however, are still investigating whether there was a breakdown or delay in getting help to Ellis' husband.

EMS workers said that is still best for callers to use land phone lines when calling 911 whenever possible.

Even so, more people are using cellular phones to call for emergency help. About 52 percent of the calls to Johnston County's 911 center come from cell phones; about 45 percent in Wayne County; and 40 percent in Wilson County.


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