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'No ambulance, no sirens': How a ransomware attack on Dallas delayed emergency response

Good samaritan steps up while DPD dispatch was down
Good samaritan steps up while DPD dispatch was down 01:59

DALLAS ( – In the alley behind a UPS store, employee Lane Dobbins was taking out the trash, when he stumbled onto a man in distress and a Dallas police officer trying to help.

"He was as blue as our shirt and not breathing and the cop was doing CPR," said Dobbins.

A one time nursing assistant, he jumped in to take turns doing CPR.

When he asked if he needed to call 911, he says the officer told him he'd already called, but that dispatch was having problems.

"He said, the Dallas response system was offline and they were working on pen and paper," recalls Dobbins.

Just one day earlier, City of Dallas computers had come under a ransomware attack and police confirm 911 call takers were taking reports by hand.

In that alley, Dobbins says, for roughly 20 minutes, they worked to keep a man alive and waited, but no ambulance ever came. So, they finally loaded the man into a police car and drove him to a hospital themselves.

"Even when we were pulling out there was no ambulance, no sirens or anything," said Dobbins.

A Dallas police spokesperson confirmed 19 minutes after an off-duty officer requested EMS, a marked patrol car transported him to a hospital.

The City of Dallas' Chief Information Officer, Bill Zielinski, told council members at a public safety committee hearing Monday some computer systems weren't taken down by the ransomware, but by the city in an effort to keep the virus from spreading.

"While this is disruptive to business operations, this is a best practice, and it's necessary to limit the overall impact of the attack," he said.

The city says systems are slowly being brought back online, among them 911 dispatch system.

But this experience may prompt city leaders to better prepare for further attacks in the future.

"This event underscores the need for our city to address the longstanding underinvestment in IT," said council member Cara Mendelsohn during Monday's meeting.

"It's a little bit scary," said Dobbins, of the lack of response.

He doesn't know the man he helped, but he says he did get a call from police to let him know, thanks to him, he survived. 

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