Joliet Area School’s 911 Call Goes to Canada

VOIP system fixed to send 911 calls locally

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images / Joe Corrigan/Stringer

    Two Will County kindergartners didn’t get far when they plotted their escape from Wilson Creek Elementary in Manhattan.

    However, the 911 call from the school erroneously made it all the way to Canada.

    Manhattan School District had switched its phone system last December to Broadvox, a voice over Internet protocol, Superintendent Howard Butters said. When the school dialed 911 on March 21, the call was routed to a Canadian phone center, delaying emergency response by five minutes.

    Typically, calls not using Internet phones are routed through the Lincolnway Public Safety Communication Center in Frankfort.

    “It had nothing to do with us, it was a problem at the school,” said Manhattan Police Chief Howard Martin.

    At the same time the school dialed 911, it simultaneously called the Manhattan Police Department directly, located 1.5 miles away. Butters said that with police help, the children were back in school within 18 minutes.

    A young boy was mad at his mother and thought he could walk to his grandmother’s house from school. In making his plan, his girlfriend in another classroom said she would go with him so he didn’t have to go alone.

    “The kids very well planned this,” Butters said. “They just slipped off.”

    When the kids were returned to the school, their faces were all red from running as fast as they could, he said. The little boy’s substitute teacher said he had kept asking if they were going outside for recess.

    “We followed our crisis plan that we have at the school, and it was followed well,” Butters said. “It was definitely an isolated case.”

    After the Broadvox system was installed, it was checked and appeared fine. After the incident, the system was corrected so any future 911 calls would route locally.

    For the students’ safety, most of the doors are locked at the school, but the one the students walked out of has to remain open in case of an emergency, he said.