Emergency call center updates map of highways

February 21, 2011 8:13:17 PM PST
Last week, we reported about a deadly accident that uncovered a very serious problem with the newest stretch of Highway 90 in Crosby. It's so new that it's not showing up in emergency responders mapping system. Now, we're getting an inside look at the problem and what's being done to fix it.

Olga Byrd was known as 'Mamaw' to those who loved her most.

"A very special person who touched so many lives," said Jerry Byrd, Olga's son.

The 84-year-old concentration camp survivor died in a head-on collision earlier this month as she got onto the new Highway 90 extension near Interstate 10 on the east side -- but going the wrong way.

Before and after the terrible crash, several people called 911.

Art Tirado was one of them. Here's a transcript of part of his 911 call:

Tirado: "The accident is on the Highway 90 off ramp from I-10 eastbound."

Operator: "Are you on the Katy Freeway side or East Freeway side?"

Tirado: "I'm on the East Freeway side."

Operator: "OK just a minute; that address is not coming up."

He became very concerned by what operators were telling him.

"It felt like you were talking to a call center in a different city or a different state," Tirado said.

Operator: "It's eastbound?"

Tirado: "If you were on I-10 East, on the east part of town, and you're heading towards Baytown, there's a brand new Highway 90 off ramp."

Operator: "Yeah, 'cause see it's not even showing up in our jurisdiction."

"In a city the size of Houston that's just not acceptable to have major highways open up and then not have the emergency services in the loop," Jerry Byrd said.

The call center uses several screens to help dispatch emergency services.

"It just goes back to ... that when those roads do become active we have to implement that in our system and the way it's pulled up in the system, that's what we are evaluating right now," said Joe Laud with the Houston Emergency Center.

It's a complex system which is not always without glitches. Sometimes it comes down to the way the location is typed in.

"Overall, there was a slight interruption in it, but it did not allow us not to proceed with our procedures," Laud said.

Wednesday afternoon, operators were able to see the new US 90 on their screens. But it's hard for the Boyds to explain to their children that Mamaw isn't coming home.

"Would it have made a difference, I don't know that, but it really just bothers me that she may have suffered longer than she really needed to," Jerry Byrd said.

Directors at the Houston Emergency Center say they are continuing to correct problems with that particular stretch of roadway. They also say they are looking for new technology that will help them get roadways into the system more quickly once they are built.