An emergency call reporting a fire near the border with Lakewood was "misdirected" to the Howell Police Department, according to Capt. Andy Kudrick of the local department.
Working with officers in Lakewood Kudrick said the two departments were able to locate the source of the call and the fire. According to a story in the Asbury Park Press a 6-year-old boy was killed in the fire and his 8-year-old brother was critically injured.
Kudrick said just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 4 dispatchers in Howell got a call from a "highly emotional female," from a phone which was traced back to a "default address" on Oak Glen Road. The address was located near a cellular tower near the Lakewood border.
The Captain said dispatchers struggled with language problems and "the emotional state of the caller," which made identifying the reason for the call initially problematic. It was eventually determined that the call was coming from a location near 327 Somerset Avenue in Lakewood and the dispatchers identified the woman as reporting Lakewood in her call.
It only took 48 seconds to connect the caller with the right department and Kudrick said the two worked together to identify the approximate location of the fire before the call was lost.
Capt. Kudrick said that while dispatchers had trouble with the language barrier the technology they used allowed them to locate the fire. Using other options to identify the language, he said, "would have taken several more additional minutes and increased response time considerably." He also said there was a concern of losing the call which eventually happened.
There is what Kudrick called "inherent problems," when 911 calls are made from mobile phones. "The wireless call can be received at any wireless tower regardless of proximity of where the call is made from," he said. "The 9-1-1 call is then routed to jurisdiction that most likely handles the 9-1-1 calls located at that cell tower site."
Last year he said Howell received 368 wireless calls intended for Lakewood which were transferred to the correct department.