Family Claims Comcast Let Grandma Bleed To Death On Thanksgiving

What happens when you have phone service through Comcast and you dial 0 for the operator in an emergency? A family in Florida claims that Comcast’s negligence killed their grandmother. The elderly woman bled to death next to her phone while waiting for the Comcast operator and emergency services to figure out where she lived. Now they’re suing Comcast.

The lawsuit alleges that last year, a panicked 81-year-old Florida grandmother dialed 0 after a freak crystal dish accident that left her bleeding heavily from her foot. By dialing 0, she reached Comcast’s operator, who transferred the call to a police dispatcher. Unfortunately, the Comcast operator didn’t have access to the caller’s address information. While the operator and dispatcher figured out where she lived, then transferred her to emergency services and waited for help to arrive, the woman bled to death.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which obtained recordings of the woman’s phone calls, tried dialing 0 from a Comcast phone. They were greeted with a prompt to press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, then to press 0 again for an emergency. They did not attempt to call 911 to see what information is available to dispatchers about Comcast customers who call 911 directly.

The recordings show that the woman was in such a state of agony and panic that she couldn’t speak long enough to give her address.

“Sorry but, I … I can’t speak!” she screams when asked her address at one point. “I can’t!” The phone is then disconnected again.

At another point, the Boynton Beach dispatcher asks the Comcast operator if she has the caller’s address.

“Her phone number, when we put in her phone number, it is showing that there is no information available on that number,” the Comcast operator says.

“Oh, goodness,” the Boynton Beach operator responds.

Comcast and the various governments involved declined comment because of the lawsuit. The family is suing Comcast for an unspecified amount, and also plans to sue the city and local fire/rescue service.

One lesson for the rest of us from all this: make sure that your elderly relatives who learned how to use telephones when telecommunications were very different know to dial 911, or pre-program emergency numbers into their phones.

Boynton grandmother bled to death after Comcast mishandled emergency calls, suit alleges [Sun-Sentinel] (Thanks, Ely and Alexa!)

Does Comast Check To See If 911 Works On Your Digital Phone?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Scurvythepirate says:

    I’m sorry but the family here are being d*cks. It’s almost like going through a proxy to hid your ip information. There was nothing anyone could do. Suck it up, mourn her loss, and get on with life.

    • anarkie says:

      Troll. They can bill her and know where her address is. BS they couldn’t pinpoint it. Also, according to the article, EMS arrived, the doors were locked, so they peeked inside, didn’t see anything and left. They left. Without verifying the call.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        You’re assuming that everyone works in a giant warehouse and an operator can just walk down the hall and ask the billing department where 555-555-5555 lives. There’s no indication that the Comcast operator had any access to the phone number’s billing information to know where the house was located.

        • dragonvpm says:

          Actually no, I assume that they work with those fancy new-fangled computers and they can bring up the basic user information for that account (and you they have that information, billing certainly doesn’t have this problem).

          It doesn’t matter if the number is unlisted, if a company offers phone service to people they should plan for a situation where someone is freaked out and might dial 0 instead of 911. It wouldn’t take much, just add an emergency situation button to any unlisted address screen so the operator can immediately get the full location information for a given phone number and make it so that if you use it your supervisor needs sign off on the emergency at the end of the shift and call it a day.

          Comcast is pretty horrible at dealing with customers in general so I think they do deserve to get spanked pretty hard over something this stupid. The fact that they had no way for an operator to quickly get access to very basic customer information needed during an emergency is unacceptable. I would bet you money that this situation happened because they decided to cut corners and save some money and they figured it was cheaper to deal with one or two lawsuits than spending the money to change their system.

          • balthisar says:

            Operator != Account Representative. Do you *really* want everyone that works at a company to have access to every customer’s data?

            • dragonvpm says:

              I want anyone I call at the company to be able to access that data IF THEY NEED TO. Dialing 0 in an emergency is not so far out of the realm of possible that they couldn’t or shouldn’t have a plan for what to do about it.

              • Dipsomaniac says:

                How exactly do you expect the company to supply the data to an operator in an emergency without compromising privacy at all other times?

                Do you have a plan to verify that the operator *needs* that information? If my provider came up with a plan to have Joe Operator able to access my private information on his say-so, I’d be gearing up for a breach of privacy charge.

                • dragonvpm says:

                  Sure, if they provide phone service, you need to provide a physical address that’s being served by the phone service in question. If someone calls the operator and it’s an emergency they access the emergency contact and the system notes it and they have to have made a corresponding call to 911 for each and every access of the emergency information.

                  Is it 100% foolproof? No, but the precedent has been set that someone providing phone service has to be able to direct emergency services to a specific address in case of emergency. Normally this is handled automatically by information entered into the 911 system but an operator should be able to do this semi-manually if someone calls. As other posters have noted, some areas used 911 OR 0 for emergency calls up until 20-30 years ago and given how often some people may actually have an emergency it’s not reasonable to do away with an operator’s ability to handle emergencies.

          • BigSlowTarget says:

            I’ll expect a $3 charge for ‘0 dialing E911 data passover services’ on my next bill then.

            Little changes in software serving millions are not little especially when that software cannot be allowed to fail ever.

            • dragonvpm says:

              “Little changes in software serving millions are not little especially when that software cannot be allowed to fail ever.”

              Little changes are also very expensive when it turns out that they weren’t done because of corporate laziness. There is no reason why the operator couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to access someone’s information in an emergency. No it’s not your standard emergency situation where someone dials 911, but e’re not talking about someone pounding out some random numbers and expecting help. Or even calling 411 or something like that and wanting help. In years past 0 was a pretty standard option for getting through to someone and there’s no reason why it couldn’t get you connected to 911 if necessary. I’m not saying it needs to be as fast or as transparent as 911, but in this case it just failed so miserably as to be unacceptable.

              • Don't Be "That Guy" says:

                The call DID get transferred to 911/Rescue, the problem was the automatic location information was not available. Generally, phone service provided by cable companies and internet/VOIP phones come with warnings regarding concerns involving emergency calls, namely that location information may not be available and that when your modem is down, or power is out, you will not be able to place emergency calls. These concerns are generally not relevant with phone company service, because it is self powered and landlines are “hardlines” or static lines.

              • wastedlife says:

                I really hate to defend Comcast, but I feel they are not to blame here. According to the article, it took 16 minutes from when the call arrived until the address was found and EMTs arrived. That means that within 16 minutes, the operator was able to locate the customer’s info, relay this to the emergency services, and the county EMTs to arrive on the site. When taking into account all of this, it must have only taken a few minutes to find the customer’s info, seems reasonable to me. When EMTs arrived, they could not gain entry and left, claiming the call was unfounded.

                “Nobody took responsibility in saving her,” said Gary Cohen, the family’s attorney. “No one went that extra mile and did what they needed to do.”

                “Going the extra mile” means to go above and beyond what is expected/required. Sounds like the operator did everything they could. If anyone is at fault, it is the EMTs for not having police force entry, although by the time police arrived and forced entry, it may have been too late anyway.

          • Lethe says:

            I’ve worked at 3 call centres, including one for a major telephone service. At none of my previous places of employment was it possible for me to see the number of the person calling in once they entered the phone tree. Believe me, sometimes (with harassing calls), we really wanted to.

            The technology may or may not be out there to always keep the number on the display, but I’ve never seen it. And this may seem heartless, but asking every single phone company out there to undergo a major system upgrade for something that is so unpredictable and may never happen again (I’m assuming this doesn’t happen regularly, since I’ve never heard of it, but may be wrong), is unrealistic. If you have an elderly relative who is ever alone, get them a Lifeline or something similar.

            • dragonvpm says:

              Wow, so because you haven’t seen it you wonder if a company PHONE services has that technology? They have a record of every call to and from every one of their numbers. They have billing addresses for all those numbers. There is no reason that they couldn’t get the information to emergency services except that they don’t want to.

              What you forget when you’re making excuses for these companies is that cable companies fought tooth and nail to get into the phone business to begin with. They did it because it’s an incredibly lucrative field for them and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to have a reliable system for transferring calls from 0 to 911. All along cable companies have made excuses for why doing 911 as reliably as the old telephone companies is beyond their abilities but they have no problem getting you your bill or tracking their equipment and they certainly have no problem charging you for every last cent they think you owe them.

              • rugman11 says:

                Did you ever think that maybe it’s a privacy issue? There’s a good chance that the operator doesn’t work for Comcast and is just in a giant warehouse calling center answering operator calls for several different companies. Do you want some cubicle monkey in India to have access to your entire billing file (including address, account number, credit card information) when all you’re trying to do is get the phone number for the local pizza place?

                /Not trying to make any particular point about India. It could be a call center in the states, too. I don’t know.

        • OmniZero says:

          I believe he meant that the problem lies with the Comcast operator said there was “no information available on that number”. If they are billing her, and she is using Comcast’s phone service, there SHOULD be information available on that number, wouldn’t you think?

          • Doubts42 says:

            I pay my mother’s phone bill for her. if EMS were sent to the billing address on her phone they would be off by 6 states.

          • kalaratri says:

            She’s an operator, not a CSR who could access Comcast’s billing/account records. Most likely she was working off of public or semi-public listings.

        • c!tizen says:

          not to get off topic here, but isn’t that the Ghostbuster’s phone number?

      • Admiral_John says:

        Okay, I take back some of my previous comment… I was an EMT in NYS for six years and if we had arrived at the address of a 911 call and not gotten an answer at the door we’d have called for police assistance to force entry into the residence.

      • zantafio says:

        My billing address with Comcast is a PO BOX..

      • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

        That’s just terrible. If that’s the case, EMS should be responsible.

        Once, when we lived on a military base, I lived and worked with my mother. Our phone had stopped working, and wouldn’t make or receive any calls. We got home from work one day, and found several cop cars in front of our house, and the police were inside. Turns out, our broken phone had somehow called 911. The MPs showed up, knocked on the door, and not hearing anything but a tv, opened and climbed through our window.

        The MP responsible felt really bad about it, especially since he knocked over our hamster cage while climbing in. He stayed to sweep up the mess, and later he came back with another soldier to catch our hamster for us.

      • dwtomek says:

        My service provider bills me at an entirely different address. I’ve had issues in the past with forwarding, address changes, etc. Subsequently I have just been receiving my mail at my parents home as it is not as big of an inconvenience for me as it was to simply not receive my mail. I could see this being similar where perhaps someone else in the family was taking care of her bills for her and having them mailed direct.

      • gparlett says:

        They DID find her address RTFA. It took them 16 minutes to find her address and for emergency personnel to arrive at her house. So, yes, the operator was able to find her address, it just took a little while and frankly that’s a really quick turnaround for looking up a customer’s address and getting emergency personnel dispatched.

    • Admiral_John says:

      Exactly this… the grandmother should have dialed 911 and not “0”.

      And why the hell is the family suing the city and the fire/rescue squad? The call came to them by transfer, so of course they won’t have access to whatever information an E-911 call directly from the grandmother would have provided.

      Sorry for their loss, but let’s try to keep focus on the bigger issue.. the grandmother should have dialed 911.

      • Griking says:

        Well, I half agree. I can maybe understand the lawsuit against Comcast but I don’t understand the lawsuit against the city and the fire/rescue service at all. I hope that one gets thrown out of court.

      • Don't Be "That Guy" says:

        Even if she had dialed 911, there’s a chance that E911 information would not have been available. There are many factors that at play regarding VOIP and 911 service. For example: frequently when people move but maintain the same service provider and port their phone number with them, they do not update the ANI/ALI entries (automatic number identification/automatic location information) attached to the phone number. Believe it or not, it is the account holders responsibility to verify that this information is correct/updated.

        • AustinTXProgrammer says:

          Internet based VoIP (such as Vonage) is certainly vulnerable as you describe, but the cable companies phone service is only similar in protocol. It runs on dedicated bandwidth, it’s installed by an installer and won’t move from address to address. Sure a computer error could have caused the problem, but that would be a major issue. The cable companies should be providing service nearly identical to what the phone companies provide from the consumer point of view (many even use modems with integrated batteries to keep the phones live).

          • Keavy_Rain says:

            I recently switched to Vonage and the first thing they made me do (Even before I received my Vonage box) was fill out the E911 form that gives dispatchers my information when I call. Maybe Comcast needs to do something similar?

    • Rhizzo says:

      I agree. I don’t fault anyone here, but the EMS first responders probably could have made more of an effort to enter the home to find out if the woman was okay. Of course, if it was a fake emergency call or they had the wrong address, and they busted down the door, they’d be getting sued anyway.

      I can’t believe everyone has forgotten the one universal solution for an accident. Sue someone! If something bad happens to you or your family, someone else needs to PAY! Doesn’t matter who! Just threaten to sue EVERYONE!

  2. SecretAgentWoman says:

    I’m sorry for the loss that the family is suffering, but there is no way a normal telephone operator (unlike a 911 dispatcher) is required to know this stuff. It sounds like they tried real hard to help her too. Sometimes, tragedy happens, why do we always have to blame someone?

    • kalaratri says:

      I agree. Sounds like the operator (not a customer service rep) tried to help but didn’t have access to customer records and the number was unlisted. The paramedics aren’t going to break down the door if there’s no apparent signs of an emergency and no one is responding to them. Otherwise every time a kid pranked emergency services there would be property damage.

      We can’t ‘blame’ the victim because obviously she was panicking and in pain, but it’s not emergency services fault if you can’t communicate the problem. There’s a reason we got my grandfather life alert.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        While I agree, the lady should have called 911 over the operator, there is still plenty of blame to go around. If you call 911, and then hangup, they call back, if you do not respond, they will show up at your house, if you do not respond to door knocks, they will break down the door, even if it appears no one was home.

        Emergency services should have entered the property, that is the whole point, people have heart attacks all the time, you think they are going to make sure they fall down in convenient view of the front door so that ems can see them, no, they drop wherever. Old people, fall down all the time, in bathrooms, bedrooms, stairs, not always convenient to being seen from the outside.

        If someone calls for help, whether 911 or 0, and the operator transfers the call to EMS, then EMS should enter the property once they verified the address.

        Prank calls are dealt with through legal law enforcement methods, you don’t really hear too many prank calls to 911 anymore, sure they still happen here and there, but its not common.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Have we taken into account that operators are more often than not located somewhere else in the US and the changes of the operator being in the same town as the woman (and such, calling 911 would get her the authorities in her town, not the woman’s town in Florida) are pretty small? I mean, they’re trained to look up listings in a database – I’ve never encountered an operator who was actually located in my area. They just have access to my local listings.

        • aloria says:

          My I have accidentally dialed 911 a bunch of times because my stupid Blackberry has a “emergency number” option when the phone is locked, so I can actually butt dial 911. They have never shown up at my house; they have always called me back and, if I didn’t answer, left a voicemail saying to call back if I had an emergency.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            Good to know that 911 still calls back. When I was a kid, I dialed 911 once or twice (what kid hasn’t?) and every time, 911 called back and after ascertaining that I was just some bored 8 year old, gave me a terse warning not to do it again.

            • nbs2 says:

              Better that than the time that the kid managed to dial 911 and then hang up. We ended up getting a visit from the cops just before we got ready to do to bed. The kid was around two and had turned the living room into a disaster. I’m pretty sure that we looked like future COPS stars.

            • Disappointed says:

              True story: Once, when my younger brother was about 8 or so, he was in school, and asked the teacher for a hall pass. He used the hall pass to walk into the school office. He waved to the secretary, then got to the phone.

              He called 911. When the operator asked him what the nature of the emergency was, he replied, “My teacher is abusing me! She’s giving me too much homework!”

              As soon as the secretary heard that, she rushed over and ended the call. It was either the secretary or my brother’s teacher who called my parents and let them know what my brother had done. My mom says that, that evening, before she and my dad could discipline my brother about making unnecessary 911 calls, they sat outside the door and just laughed for several minutes.

              • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

                That belongs on stfu parents. Only a parent would think that was funny.

          • freelunch says:

            wow…. umm….
            hold down the mute button until you see the message that your phone is entering ‘standby mode’…

            hit mute again to continue using it.

            you really shouldn’t be butt-dialling 911… in my city it takes anywhere between 10 and 60 seconds to get a 911 operator on the line due to the high volume of calls they receive. They should be sending you a bill for false calls after the second or third time.

        • kalaratri says:

          I was under the impression that no one had verified this woman’s address. If they did know this was where the emergency was, then they should have called the police to gain entry.

        • ellemdee says:

          Calling 911 directly won’t necessarily get you to a person faster. I’ve directly called 911 before (in a couple of different areas) and been put on hold for several minutes before a person actually answered – plenty of time for a sick or injured person to die, pass out, or become too weak to speak.

        • Don't Be "That Guy" says:
  3. Beeker26 says:

    Sad, but I don’t see how Comcast is at fault here.

  4. PunditGuy says:

    “Hang up and dial 911.”

    Still not Comcast’s fault, but a training memo might be in order.

    • dragonvpm says:

      No. Given how interconnected things are nowadays they should have a way to transfer a call from 0 to 911 and explain what was going on. Heck, I work in a temporary-ish construction trailer and our office phones could handle most of that. Any company providing phone service should have a procedure and staff trained in how to direct a call from any customer (including unlisted numbers) to emergency services and provide them with the information they need to get to the person in question.

      No part of this situation was particularly unusual. Someone panics and dials 0 instead of 911? I’m sure it happens often enough to warrant a plan to deal with it and that plan should not be “hang up and dial 911”. Paramedics arrive at an address and get no response? Someone could easily be unconscious and need assistance (that’s in no way a stretch if someone called in a medical emergency/injury). The default action should be arrive with cops and have them open the apartment/home to make sure no one is hurt.

      Sadly it seems like the system failed this woman horribly and they really do need to look at what they’re doing and figure out how to do it better.

      • PunditGuy says:

        In the old analog switching days, you’d be right — there’d be a way to transfer the call and have the originating information remain intact. VoIP doesn’t always work that way. Telling the person to dial 911 takes care of that issue, assuming the user properly set up the system.

      • Julia789 says:

        When I was a kid, we were taught to dial O in case of an emergency. The operator would patch you through to police, fire, or ambulance as needed. The operator was in effect, 911.

        Then when 911 began in our town (it was implemented slowly across the country) there were huge campaigns in schools, newspapers, and TV public service announcements to dial 911 NOT the operator. There were stickers mailed out and placed on phones.

        It is sad the elderly lady dialed O but I suppose in a panic people fall back on what their brains were “preprogrammed” for, rather than newer material. Perhaps she had a degenerative aging disease as is common with the elderly, in many cases this effects their ability to recall more recent information while they can remember things from childhood or as young adults.

        Whatever the reason, There is still a gap in the generation that will remember being taught to dial the operator in an emergency rather than 911. That gap is closing, but I’d give it another 20 or 30 years before the gap is gone. In the mean time, the phone companies need to come up with a better emergency plan, which I am sure they are doing now that this tragedy happened.

        It reminds me of that lawsuite a few years ago, was it Vonage or something similar? The user discovered their internet phone connection was unable to dial 911. It was frightening. The problem appears to be corrected from what I have heard, and for services that it does not dial 911, large warnings are given to users alerting them to that fact.

      • Doubts42 says:

        so the OP calls you from [redacted] and reaches you in [different-redacted]. if you transfer them to 9-11 they will be getting your local 9-11. not much help to the OP who is most likely in a different state.

      • kalaratri says:

        “In a panic, Reiner dialed “0” and reached a Comcast operator. The operator transferred the call to a Boynton Beach police dispatcher, “
        She did get transferred to emergency services.

      • Rhizzo says:

        I like how you just assume that everything is just “magically” connected and there’s one button you can push to solve all your problems. Can I buy some pot from you?

  5. sufreak says:

    For once, Comcast is not at fault. 9-1-1 has been a standard for emergencies for decades. The time she dialed 0, then 1, then who knows what else, and said what else, she could have called 911 and given her address if they didnt have it.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      Everyone’s been saying that we should all know 9-1-1 is the only number to dial in an emergency. But if it is, and I doubt it is, 9-1-1 has not been the standard for that long. I’m in my twenties and I recall John Walsh doing a PSA when I was a ten year old kid watching Saturday morning cartoons advocating we either call 9-1-1 OR 0. In fact, this is the first I’ve heard about zero being no good in an emergency.

      Remember that the Comcast prompt said to dial zero again in the event of an emergency. That seems to indicate that they do expect people to use the operator line as a 9-1-1 alternative. If they seriously did not want to double as emergency services, then they should have either routed the call to 9-1-1 services or at least prompt the caller to hang up and call 9-1-1.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I’m in my 20s and I’ve never been told that dialing 0 was an option. It was always 911. We had stickers and pamphlets all over school telling us to dial 911 in case of emergencies. The Mr. Yuk poison control stickers also had 911 on them along with the poison control center phone number.

        • Aennan says:

          I think the switch happened somewhere between 1983 and 1988. My brother is in his twenties. I am in my thirties. I was taught dial 0 for the operator’s help. He was taught dial 911.

          That said, of my various family members, only 3 of the 5 living houses have 911 as an option. 2 members of our family live where there is no 911 service. They have to dial 0 to get help (and, these are the most elderly of our group as well).

          • myCatCracksMeUp says:

            A lot of it depended on where you lived. It was availble earlier in cities and towns because the streets were all already named. In rural areas they had to name the country roads and assign house numbers to the houses before 9-1-1 could be implemented. That took quite a while, and cost all the counties money.

        • dragonvpm says:

          This does not change the fact that apparently some people lived in areas (probably rural) where 911 or 0 was an option for emergency calls.

          I’m in my 30s and while I don’t clearly remember the pre-911 days, I do remember seeing ads when my city rolled out the 911 system (or some new permutation of it).

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Where my mom lives they didn’t even get 9-1-1 calling until about 10 years ago, maybe a little longer. Once it was decided that everyplace should have it, all the rural areas had to name all there road. My mom’s address was Route 3, Box 512. There were only three main Route #s in the whole county with hundreds of miles of country roads. It took awhile to get them all named, but once that was done, the county got 9-1-1 calling.

          Many, many, many people have gone their whole lives calling 0 for operator for emergencies.

        • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

          You obviously never saw this:

          Ah, memories.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Hey, I’m only 45 and for most of my childhood, if you had an emergency, you dialed 0 for the operator. Then you said “I need the police,” or “I need an ambulance,” and the operator transferred you to the appropriate agency. This lady was older and probably grew up doing the same thing. When people are panicking, they will do what is instinctive; in this case, it was dialing 0.

      I think any company that provides phone services needs to better train their operators to handle a situation like this. Comcast should take this opportunity to review procedures because if it happened once it could happen again.

      Those with elderly relatives might want to take a lesson here and make sure they are up to speed on what to do in an emergency, even post something by the phone if necessary, “FOR EMERGENCY CALL 911” or something like that.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I’m a few years younger than you but also lived in the pre-911 era.

        It never would have occurred to me to dial “0” in an emergency. We always kept the phone numbers for the police, fire, and poison control either next to or on the actual phone. The problem with calling the operator, even back in the day, was the likelihood that she was several states away, and wouldn’t have local emergency contacts readily available.

      • Etoiles says:

        I’m very nearly 30 and my town didn’t have 911 until I was in junior high or possibly even high school. I remember being taught the full town police emergency number (seven whole digits, haha) as a kid.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I think this probably also has more to do with where you lived. It sounds like you lived in a smaller town, whereas I’ve only ever lived in major metropolitan areas, where it seems 911 systems were more established.

        • pinkbunnyslippers says:

          Ahh that gives me a flashback to the good old days where William Shatner hosted that TV show “Rescue 911”, and at the end of the show we always got a warning that we DIDN’T have 911, and to call local police in an emergency. Those 7 whole numbers! I really shudder to think about kids now and the future who are so conditioned to just flip through cell phones and auto-dial someone.

      • kalaratri says:

        Out of curiosity, what should the procedure be besides transferring the call to emergency services?

      • Jaws_Victim says:

        Did you read the article? She transferred the dying woman to the police and they asked her for more information. SHE DIDN’T HAVE THE INFORMATION. If you can’t do anything because people don’t follow proper procedure, you can’t help it. Yes, she went back to “instinctively” dialing O. And she paid for her mistype.

        Everyone likes to blame CSR’s for everything. As a former one, there are just some things I can’t do. If you called me and demanded me to give you all your info, like phone number, address, and services, I couldn’t do it without you telling me some info first. And the woman clearly said “I…I can’t speak!”

        The only person at fault here is the dying woman. If she had dialed 911 she would still be alive. She didn’t, counted on people who are not magicians, and died.

  6. LightningUsagi says:

    “When paramedics did get there, they found the doors and windows locked, and attempted to look inside, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue records. When no one answered the door, the paramedics left, deeming the call “unfounded,” the records show.”

    I think the operator did everything within her power to help, but it really bothers me that the paramedics didn’t try to get inside. The woman called for help, and help basically dismissed her at a locked door.

    • startertan says:

      I have to agree with your comment, they should’ve tried to get in or at least call dispatch and find out if it was serious enough to warrant getting in there but at the same time they probably would’ve needed to call the cops to bust in. Also, in the litigious world that is the United States, they were probably worried about being sued for busting in the wrong door.

      • DH405 says:

        At $1400 a ride (The cost of an ambulance ride here in Oklahoma City, as billed by the EMT contractor company) they can afford to replace a door/window here and there when needed.

        • sufreak says:

          Not everything is billed to the victim. I was on a volunteer squad and the victims never got a bill. Also, paramedics have no authority to ‘break into’ a house. That is why the police are always dispatched at the same time. They should be able to enter the house as needed.

        • Anri says:

          u r dumb

    • kalaratri says:

      If there were no signs of emergency and no one is responding to their shouts/banging and dispatch isn’t sure what’s going on or if they were in the right place, I can understand why they didn’t just start doing property damage.

    • webweazel says:

      I blame the paramedics and Comcast 50% and I blame her 50%.

      It does sound like the “perfect storm” of faults all around. The operator should have told her to call 911. Even with VOIP you have to register your phone number and address with the local emergency services. The paramedics should have broken in knowing someone was in distress inside. She should have calmed down a bit, pressed a towel on the injury to try and slow the bleeding, while having the presence of mind to relay her address if there was a question. She called 0 over 10 times, but she couldn’t tell them her address at any point? With “blood throughout the house” it sounds like she was running around the house, in full-on panic mode, blood pressure pumping high, which sealed her own doom. Nobody could have helped her in that state of mind.

      And seriously, someone who hasn’t heard of calling 911 in an emergency has been living under a rock for the past 30 years.

      • webweazel says:

        Whoops. Wanted to put it top-level. Sorry about that. Need more coffee……

      • evnmorlo says:

        Old people have degenerating brains. Everyone pretends that they will be working until 90, but mental disintegration is already starting in your 30s.

    • pot_roast says:

      Ugh. As a firefighter/EMT, we’ve had calls like this.. and we wait for law enforcement to arrive before we leave a scene. A lot of it is a CYA thing. Believe me, we have no problems breaking down doors. BUT.. we can’t just go around smashing doors & windows in if we are unable to determine whether or not there is a patient inside.

    • Rachacha says:

      My experience with fire departments and paramedics shows that unless there is a visable threat (they see someone laying on the floor, or see fire or smell a gas leak, they must call for police before the break into the home. My neighbor’s home next door had a ruptured fire sprinkler pipe. They were not home, so I called 911 because there was water gushing from the house and the smoke detectors were going off, so I could not tell if there was an actual fire, or aburt pipe. The fire department came, they could not see any immediate danger, so they called a police officer. He then witnessed the fire department break into the house to asses the situation, determine it was a burst pipe, and turn off the water and electricity. The police officer wrote a report saying that there was an emergency, and the fire department caused damage to their home to resolve the emergency.

      In this situation, it seems like no one was sure exactly where the woman lived, but they think they figured it out. Paramedics looked inside and saw/heard nothing. They could force entry, and risk having the wrong house, or they could do nothing. In this case, that decision was the wrong one, but I suspect that 95% of the time, not breaking in is the correct route.

  7. BigHeadEd says:

    If all they wanted to do was make sure this didn’t happen to someone else, they wouldn’t be seeking an “unspecified” sum in the lawsuit.

  8. DarthCoven says:

    Looks to me like what grandma really needed was a pair of slippers.

  9. comatose says:

    This is one of the drawbacks of VoIP service. When you do you VoIP service as your whole house telecommunications solution, you HAVE to remember to fill out the emergency services and location information or now one will have a clue where you are. I had a friend that moved to Singapore and kept his same Vonage VoIP phone and would call us from there no problem.

    Now, possibly, this could have also been attributed to not actually dialing 911. However, if you had a regular POTS line, they could have found you much quicker. Also, what happens when the lights go out long enough to deplete your UPS, the UPS at the cable/FIOS box at the end the block? That’s right, no telephone. Generators and UPS at ma-bell central offices can frequently run for 4-7 days and you as a customer don’t require anything on your part – it just works by providing 48VDC power to your phones.

    Rant off…

  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Wow that’s tragic. WTF good is an operator if they can’t find your address info in case of emergency. Another good question is why is there even an operator anymore? I’m surprised she didn’t get a computer telling her that it couldn’t understand what she said.
    That would be more appropriate for a suit I think, even though dialing zero is not the right thing to do.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The Comcast operator is more of like an interactive yellow pages. It’s more useful for people who don’t know how to use the internet to search for something. The operator service isn’t meant for emergencies. That’s why people dial 911.

    • sirwired says:

      The Operator is NOT an emergency dispatcher. They are there to provide typical operator services, like making collect calls, credit card calling, etc.

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I had Vonage for a number of years and I’m assuming it worked roughly the same way as Comcast.

    While it was definitely a great way to save money, I’m not sure relying on it for emergencies, especially for an elderly person, is the greatest idea. When I had Vonage, there were several page long disclaimers about 911 service and limitations, as well as the necessity of registering the 911 address. If I recall, calling 911 didn’t even go to the local dispatch, as it was routed to a call center, which then contacted the county dispatch.

    With Vonage, I’m not even sure what would have happened if I dialed “0” — I’m guessing it would have wound up with an Indian call center.

  12. SpamFighterLoy says:

    If Comcast wasn’t willing to handle emergency situations, they SHOULDN’T have an emergency option on the operator’s menu. It’s simple enough these days to forward calls to 0, 0 to 911. They took responsibility away from the 911 operators – now they have to live with it.

    • cheezfri says:

      I think this is a good point. WHY is there an emergency option if there’s nothing they can do? If this is an elderly woman, she may have had some sort of dementia, and just didn’t have the presence of mind to call 911 because she panicked. Dialing 0 should result in SOME sort of useful help.

    • Doubts42 says:

      I think it is a case of our URGENT!!! society. By emergency Comcast probably means all those self important folks who need to be able to make their business call RIGHT NOW!!! not grandma and her bleeding foot.

  13. anarkie says:

    What amazes me is that EMS came and left. That should be in the article excerpts, since it is highly relevant.

    • hypochondriac says:

      What would you have them do? I’m taking an EMT course and were told we aren’t allowed to enter a locked dwelling. Should they break down the doors of every 911 call which doesn’t get a reply?

      • Tim says:

        You got an emergency dispatch to that house. A lot of people lock their doors, and you can’t always unlock it if you’re having a medical emergency.

        If you can’t get in, call the police immediately and have them come and break down the door. If someone called 911 from inside the house and said they need medical help, the police are definitely within their rights to break down the door. In fact, it’s their responsibility.

        • dragonvpm says:

          Thinking about this more, I’d argue that the standard policy should be that at least one police unit (if available) should do a drive by of emergency calls where dispatch can’t get in touch with the person who called it in. If they show up and paramedics are there and can’t get in, they check to make sure it’s the right address and then break down the door. It’s not like the paramedics are likely to have been given a wrong address. I know mistakes happen but I’m talking about prank calling 911 to cause this to happen, the address they are likely to have is provided by a trusted system so it’s less likely to be wrong so breaking down the door is a more reasonable action.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        Yes, they should, see my previous post, you think that someone calling for help in a dire emergency is just going to have a checklist ready.. unlock door – check, fall down in a location where I can be see – check, have cookies ready for EMS personnel – check…..

        No, it does not work that way. Emergencies happen, and they are not always convenient.. break down teh door, or have the polic show up and do it for you..

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        So if someone calls 911 and they say they can’t speak and the call disconnects that’s still the poicy? That’s very scary for those of us who live alone. What are we supposed to do if we have an emergency and can only manage to call 911 but not answer the door?

        • 99 1/2 Days says:

          You can drag yourself over to a window…if you happen to keep the blinds open (and are on the first floor of course… if not, just drag yourself down the stairs first). You can scream continuously for 20 minutes until the EMTs arrive. If somehow you can manage to bleed out under the threshold of the front door that would probably be your best option.

      • anarkie says:

        They should have contacted the police for assistance. this is a common thing. Not everyone in an emergency keeps their doors unlocked, or retains consciousness.

      • evnmorlo says:

        Yes, why not? Maybe you could try bump keys or a window first.

    • dealbreaker says:

      If the fire dept./ ambulance broke down every door where there was no response, you would have alot of broken doors. 70% of calls in most regions are from elderly and alot of those are either false medic alerts or unclear medical issue. The fact that someone couldnt recall their own address (under duress) means they werent being 100% clear about their foot. Because of this, paramedics did not know the full severity of the injury and did their due diligence looking around the outside of the house to find victims. When no one responded, they were in the right by heading home. Knowing the limited info of a “bleeding toe,” an EMT would not barge in a house just because no one came to the door. Sometime the victim leaves to go seek their own help before the ambulance arrives…

    • APCO25guy says:

      We (EMS) don’t break down doors, we have to call PD and usually fire is the one who will actually force entry, but we can ONLY do it if we FOR SURE have a victim inside (or visible signs of a problem, like a body lying on the floor, or other circumstances like blood present, screams, etc). Thanks to bogus calls, this VOIP crap and cellphone providers and PSAP’s that aren’t E911 compliant, we have to go on what we see and the limited information that radio often gives us about a call. If nothing looks out of order, and no signs of a problem are there, we can’t just bust down doors. It doesn’t work that way.

      This is a horrible situation, but if you want to play the blame game, put it on these Federal regulators who allow the telecom giants to collect junk fees and not properly disperse the money needed to upgrade those PSAP’s and get your local 911 centers up to date with the correct information so we can get to you as quick as possible.

      It is not uncommon for an elderly person to dial 0 for emergency services. Until 911 was made the official emergency number, this is what you did. And many communities in the US still do not have 911 service to this day. It costs serious money to run an E911 center. The real RBOC’s have to answer to state PUC’s which have strict requirements for handling emergency calls, routing such calls to proper PSAP’s, and service quality requirements.

      If your elderly parents live alone, do them a favor. Get them a REAL POTS line. Most phone companies offer a “lifeline” service available at a low cost (often less than $20 per month) for elderly and low income people. Make sure to connect a NON-CORDLESS (as they usually won’t work if AC fails) phone to each jack so it’s in reach. Big button analog phones are cheap. Even more important, if you have any doubts about your public safety agency that responds knowing where they are, contact that agency on their NON-EMERGENCY number during business hours and ensure that your loved ones’ address is properly entered into that agencies CAD system. you’d be surprised how often times it isn’t for various reasons.

      This can the make the difference between life and death as every second counts. The more accurate information we have, the faster we can get to you.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        I have also found if you contact Dispatch on a non emergency number you can request permission to test your 911 access. I handle PBX systems and this is quite common. They will refuse the test if call volumes are too high at the time.

        Watch out though, my home VoIP carrier threatens a $100 fee if a 911 call is unfounded, and they mention test calls specifically. They offer a 933 number (I think) that will read back the registered address.

  14. hypochondriac says:

    Why the city rescue service? It’s not like she called 911 and they refused to help her

  15. davere says:

    I am in a position where I have sat in emergency centers for countless of hours listening in on calls. Usually, when a call is transferred to a 911 team, they get all of the caller’s information on their screens, but not always, it depends on the agency or department transferring the call to the 911 call center.

    If the call contains no information and the caller cannot give their location (happens quite often), the caller is asked to hang up and call 911. It gets right back to them, but this time the caller’s information comes through.

    Why the Boynton Beach person didn’t do this common procedure confuses me.

  16. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Yay! Good for us! Let’s all be dicks and blame the dead lady and ignore the root problem

    • katarzyna says:

      What would you consider the root problem to be?

      • Mom says:

        The fact that the operator didn’t actually help her in any way, at least by telling her to hang up and dial 911. Elderly people dialing 0 in an emergency is really common. You’d think Comcast could handle that without killing their customers. Apparently, they can’t.

      • Hoss says:

        That the company that provides telephone service doesn’t have the service address in case of emergency? Seems like a basic and not at all technically unfeasible.

      • gparlett says:

        The root problem is that our elderly population is not sufficiently trained to dial 911 instead of the operator. An honest to God take away for all of would be to find some time over the holiday season to sit down with our grandparents and discuss this. Simply brining up this story would be a good way to breach the subject.

  17. webweazel says:

    I blame the paramedics and Comcast 50% and I blame her 50%.

    It does sound like the “perfect storm” of faults all around. The operator should have told her to call 911. Even with VOIP you have to register your phone number and address with the local emergency services. The paramedics should have broken in knowing someone was in distress inside. She should have calmed down a bit, pressed a towel on the injury to try and slow the bleeding, while having the presence of mind to relay her address if there was a question. She called 0 over 10 times, but she couldn’t tell them her address at any point? With “blood throughout the house” it sounds like she was running around the house, in full-on panic mode, blood pressure pumping high, which sealed her own doom. Nobody could have helped her in that state of mind.

    And seriously, someone who hasn’t heard of calling 911 in an emergency has been living under a rock for the past 30 years.

    • webweazel says:

      To add: 911 operators are (usually) trained in ways of helping people to calm down in an emergency, and may have instructed her on how to help herself, giving more time for a rescue to happen. Dialing 0 does not (generally) get you a person of the same training for life-and-death emergencies.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I will reiterate what I said above. An older person would have been taught as a kid to call 0 for the operator in an emergency. She probably did know 911. But in panic mode, she will not be thinking straight and will act on instinct, perhaps doing something that was drilled into her when she was little. Panic does that to people.

      Have you ever seen someone panic? They regress. It’s not their fault; it’s just part of that state of mind.

    • zack says:

      That’s 150%!

  18. Nick says:

    I can’t believe people would be so obnoxious as to blame a person who has panicked in an emergency situation. I guess being up at the crack of dawn and grants the readers Spock-like powers of logic and reason. Dialing 0 for operator, and yes this woman may have been too confused to press three numbers, should have gotten this woman’s address to the 911 operator. They failed to provide the address and she died. Unfortunately, she didn’t have ice running through her veins.

    • Dipsomaniac says:

      Look, it’s very common for first-level operators to simply not have access to customer information like an address, okay? How do you expect someone without the information to pass the information on?

    • dwtomek says:

      I think more than anything it is the family that is getting the ire of the people commenting. This is an unfortunate situation. This is not a situation that justifies litigation.

  19. Murbob says:

    If she had called in a terrorist threat they probably would have been there much quicker.

    You can’t fully expect grandma to keep all her senses during a severe injury and while bleeding like a pig. What if grandma had a bit of Alzheimer ? We need to excuse grandma and remove her from the debate.

    I wonder about the other millions of customers with VOIP phones. Can Comcast locate them if they dial zero? If so, Comcast is at fault. If not, then its just one of those unfortunate learning curves when dealing with a young technology that is barely a decade old.

    Personally, I think anyone who puts their entertainment, internet and phone service into a single copper wire (and those who own it) are kind of foolish to begin with.

  20. MPD01605 says:

    As an EMT, it’s tough, because it might not have been the right address. Cops would have had to be called to break in. They shouldn’t have left so quickly, but there could be more to the story. I’ve walked around houses and peered into every window looking for clues. Without the exact E911 information, it’s harder to justify breaking down a door or in a window. If it IS the wrong house, then just imagine that story.

  21. jaredwilliams says:

    these people need to get a life sue happy pricks

  22. oldwiz65 says:

    Anyone who depends on voip for emergency calls is a fool in my opinion.
    stick to landline if you want to be able to reach 911 reliably. Landlines even work during power failures.

    Comcast knows full well that voip is not dependable and yet they trumpet that it’s a full replacement for a landline.

    • Mom says:

      “Comcast knows full well that voip is not dependable and yet they trumpet that it’s a full replacement for a landline.”

      Sounds like a problem then, doesn’t it.

    • majortom1981 says:

      the person dialed 0 not 911. 911 on voip systems does work. the operator when yo udial 0 is only for colelct calls. heck they probably are in another country.

      the women could have dialed 911 or hit the emergency option in the menu which would have transfered her to 911.

      This is not comcasts fault. if the women would have dialed 911 the 911 operator would have gotten her info.

  23. jiarby says:

    Operators are not responsible for providing emergency services…. old bag shoulda dialled 911 (or improved her grip, or worn shoes, or had one of those life-alert necklaces, or applied pressure)

  24. djc_819 says:

    Eh? Who dials 0 for an emergency anymore. Being elderly is no excuse for ignorance. She should have known to dial 911 (unless she is using some sort of weird telephone system where dialing 911 is not possible – I think i’ve heard of this before)

    A child would know to dial 911, so should a senior citizen. Geez. It really sucks, yes… and if it were my mother i’d be angry too and I would want to blame someone because let’s face it, this could have been all avoided if everyone had done what they SHOULD have, i.e.: Operator should have found her address, elderly woman should have dialed 911 and paramedics should have broken the door down, knowing it was someone that was in too much trouble to walk and open the door.

  25. mbd says:

    The “0” Operator is not and emergency number. 911 is the emergency number. Comcast is not at fault. Period.

  26. mcs328 says:

    I’m bothered why she couldn’t speak when asked for her address. Was English not her native language and she only knew those two phrases? Instead of ” I can’t ” how about “123 Main St”. Or maybe “Springfield, Va”.

  27. Macgyver says:

    Who dials 0 instead of 911 for an emergency.

    This was no ones fault, Comcast give the 911 dispatcher all the info he had.
    Then once they did find the address, they sent people out and they couldn’t find anything.
    It was just an unfortunate accident.

    It’s just the world we live in today, where everyone is sue happy.

  28. chiieddy says:

    Okay, all the people complaining about her not dialing 9-1-1 and dialing 0. Why didn’t the operator say. Please hang up, dial 9-1-1!

    • Mom says:

      That’s what I’m wondering. Even when I call my doctor’s office to make an appointment, the first thing at the top of the phone menu is, “If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911.” Why a phone operator isn’t trained to do the same thing, I wouldn’t know.

  29. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    First, Comcast sucks (Worst Company in America, HELLO?~) Plus, Comcast phones are VOIP. If you need a phone for old folks, or for someone that may need emergency services, NEVER get that person VOIP phone service.


    If the family also set grandma up with VOIP, or knew she had VOIP phone service and didn’t do anything to get her back on POTS, THEY are also at fault.

    • majortom1981 says:

      UGh somebody else who does not know what they are talking about. If you dial 911 from a voip phone it does give you the address. The person dialed 0 . Not 911. The operator just handles collect calls and things like that.

      Also the emergency option on the menu transfers the person to 911 so dont use that as an excuse either.

      Its the EMT’s fault for leaving when they got no answer at the door.

  30. DD_838 says:

    Ummm, I don’t mean to be a jerk, but she cut her foot not her tongue. She could say ‘I’m sorry. I can’t speak’ but she could not give her address. Ummmm…….

  31. jesirose says:

    An incredibly important part of the article:

    “It took 16 minutes to pinpoint Reiner’s address, to establish she lived in unincorporated Palm Beach County and for county paramedics to arrive, according to the lawsuit. When paramedics did get there, they found the doors and windows locked, and attempted to look inside, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue records.

    When no one answered the door, the paramedics left, deeming the call “unfounded,” the records show.”

    Someone is crying for help, but since they can’t answer the door, the paramedics leave? I’d sue THEM for that part.

  32. Resurgent says:

    For all those who are ignorant. Consider that she did indeed try dialing 911 and it didn’t go through due to the “e911” information not being filled out by the eldery lady. Id even speculate in a panic she spent too long trying to dial 911 from the stupid Comcast phone, by the time she decided to try 0 she had lost a lot of blood.

    • AI says:

      If by the time she dialed 0 she had already lost a lot of blood, it wouldn’t have mattered if they had her information. She would have bled to death before they arrived anyways.

  33. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I feel sorry for the lady and her husband – who must be having feelings of guilt and did-I-screw-up.
    The “0” operator pulled up the contact screen but it had no address. Don’t know who’s fault that was – was there a setup step that Comcast or the client didn’t do? (“Ill do it later”?). Comcast was able to eventually find the contact info but if the contact info was on the initial screen then paramedics wold have been their 16 minutes earlier.

    The story says “unincorporated area” but a Google shows that is “unincorporated area” is actually a typical established Florida subdivision with nice cookie cutter homes & alligator ponds in the back.

  34. mrsnetpro says:

    Comcast decided to remove my “unpublished”, offered me a partial refund for some unknown reason and listed my phone number and address. We’ll see what they do about it because I have never had a published number.

  35. palfas says:

    the chances of her e911 not being filled out are slim to none. There’s no way comcast would have provided her with phone service w/o proper contact info, they could be held liable for any problems, like this one.

    In this case, we don’t know if there wasn’t any e911 info or if it just wasn’t passed to the operator. It should have been passed to the 911 operator if they transferred the call. Comcast is definitely at fault at least partially

    • Kristoffer says:

      Totally not true. I work in a 911 center and handle all the incorrect and blank ALI information that comes in DAILY. These VOIP and cable companies are bad about not entering the information in the system correctly or putting a residence at the wrong location. I handle several of these a day just for my county and I am sure it’s like this everywhere across the US. Of course the only way we (emergency services) find out about it is after the residence has called for help and the address that comes up isn’t even close to what they are telling us or we end up at the wrong location. I would NEVER have VOIP or cable phone service for this reason. It’s scary how bad it is.

  36. tidomonkey says:

    Bottom line is, both the Comcast operator and the EMTs did everything within their authority and ability to save this woman. The lawsuit is a ridiculous attempt to profit off of an unfortunate situation.

    Both gave good faith efforts to save her life. They have zero responsibility to actually save her life, only to try to the best of their ability, which they did.

  37. common_sense84 says:

    As long as emergency services would have gotten the phone number had she dialed 911 directly, there is no case here.

    Next time dial 911.

    • Resurgent says:

      Attached to the installation order for every phone installation, Comcast writes:”” Calls, including calls to 911 may not be completed if there is a problem with network facilities, including network congestion, network congestion, network/equipment/power failure or another technical problem “

      Sorry but their phone service is dangerous for the elderly and the government needs to regulate it better. They shouldn’t be allowed to install phone service in Florida. The elderly population has no idea how dangerous it is to have a company that has already proven it doesn’t care about it’s customers in charge of their only phone line.

  38. The Marionette says:

    I guess she couldn’t remember the number to 911. By dammit I forget it every time myself.

  39. Rhizzo says:

    This sounds like a case of “When in doubt, sue everyone”. Absolutely disgusting. I mourn the family’s loss, but is there not a better way to handle this situation? Like.. I don’t know.. directly dialing emergency medical services to begin with? At what point did Comcast say “We’re responsible for making sure you don’t bleed to death”. It doesn’t sound like it’s neglect on the part of Comcast, or the first responders. Comcast doesn’t have a magic “save your life” button on those new fangled computers like people seem to expect from technology companies (particularly old people).

    Oh wait, there is a magic “save your life” company, and it’s not Comcast.

    I think I’ll have to chalk this one up to natural selection.

    • Resurgent says:

      Sorry but their phone service is dangerous for the elderly and the government needs to regulate it better. They shouldn’t be allowed to install phone service in Florida. The elderly population has no idea how dangerous it is to have a company that has already proven it doesn’t care about it’s customers in charge of their only phone line. She probably did try 911 and it didn’t go through due to the shoddy phone service Comcast provides. When you lose a lot of blood you go into shock. I’m sure if she was late on her bill they would find her within 5 minutes or less. Screw Comcast for this. They are rotten for not verifying e911 for this lady and if I was on the jury I’d throw the book at them.