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Family of man who died of heart attack glad to see problems with 911 dispatch addressed

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 11:01:03-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY - It's a solution decades in the making, and a problem sparked by cell phones.

"This is a huge deal," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. "This has been in the works for 20 years."

The deal Mayor McAdams speaks of is a software program that will be installed for all dispatch and first responders within the next 18 months.

"It will allow everyone to communicate on the same system," said John Morgan, Director of the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center.

Morgan explains that in the past, his dispatch center would get emergency 911 calls from cities on the other side of the county, calls best suited for another dispatch center.

“You can take the radio signals and direct them to some degree," Morgan said. "But when you look at all the irregular borders our cities have, you can’t make a radio signal follow that border. So, it could go to the right dispatch center or the opposite one."

That's a problem Lisa Parker and her husband Kent know all too well. In January of 2014, Kent called 911 dispatchers complaining of chest pain.

However, he was connected with VECC across town because his cell phone hit that tower. By the time his call was transferred multiple times, he decided he was feeling better and hung up. However, later in the evening, he passed away from a heart attack.

"He had four kids," a tearful Lisa Parker said. "I miss him so much, love him so much, it’s so sad.”

Parker said she was thrilled to hear about the new system that will allow dispatch centers to stay on the line, instead of transferring calls. The system will allow different call centers to share information without hanging up and starting over.

She says that's a vast improvement, and one that's been a long time coming.

"Nobody should have to go through what we went through," she said. "The system failed, it failed and now he’s gone.”