Ohio 911 center misses call about fatal emergency during outage

The family of the patient who died called the hospital directly after failing to reach a 911 operator due to a rare power distribution unit failure


John Benson
cleveland.com

PARMA, Ohio — An unexpected outage last week at the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System (CECOMS) led to a Parma family in desperate need of medical attention calling 911 without anyone picking up.

“On Nov. 5 at 4:10 a.m., CECOMS experienced an outage,” Cuyahoga County Communications Specialist Dale Armbruster said. "When the dispatcher realized the system was down, they immediately called the vendor, CallWorks, which dispatched a technician.

Parma firefighters responded to a fatal incident Nov. 5 after the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System missed the 911 call due to an outage. The family of the patient called the hospital directly, which then contacted the fire department.
Parma firefighters responded to a fatal incident Nov. 5 after the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System missed the 911 call due to an outage. The family of the patient called the hospital directly, which then contacted the fire department. (Photo/John Benson, Cleveland.com)

“CallWorks worked with AT&T to move all of our 911 calls over to Cleveland, where CECOMS dispatched personnel.”

The family of Vince Frusteri, who died, eventually called UH Parma Medical Center directly, which then contacted the Parma Fire Department about the emergency.

Parma Director of Public Safety Thomas Weinreich said once the call came into the Parma Regional Dispatch Center first responders made direct contact with the Frusteri residence in less than three minutes.

UH Parma Medical Center’s EMS Manager Joe Toth noted 911 cell phones go to CECOMS and are routed from there to the appropriate regional dispatch center. Calls from landline telephones in Parma go directly to the Parma Regional Dispatch Center.

“We recognize the value of 911 in helping citizens receive critical emergency assistance,” Toth said. “EMS is a vital partner in providing care to our community.”

Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter added, "I extend my deepest condolences to the Frusteri family. It’s an unfortunate and sad incident. I know the county is investigating this matter.

“We’ll learn what exactly happened, and hope that moving forward we do not have another incident like this.”

The CECOMS issue involved a power distribution unit failure, which controls the entire dispatch system. Armbruster said the outage is incredibly rare.

While the recent problem affected Northeast Ohio communities, the Parma incident was the only major tragedy related to the unit failure.

“CECOMS is working with CallWorks and AT&T on additional redundancies to ensure something like this can’t happen again,” Armbruster said.

Weinreich added, “It’s a good practice for Parma residents to save 440-885-1234 as an additional contact number in their cellular phones as a secondary means of contacting the dispatch center when needed.”

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(c)2020 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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