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Update on Interruption of Montgomery County's 9-1-1 System; Leggett Calls for Investigation Into Outage, Possible Consequences

For Immediate Release: Monday, July 11, 2016

On Sunday, July 10 just after 11 p.m., the County’s 9-1-1 system experienced an interruption of service at the County’s Alternate Emergency Communications Center (AECC) located in Rockville, which caused community members who called the emergency 9-1-1 and non-emergency 301-279-8000 phone lines to receive a busy signal instead of a standard call taker response. The interruption lasted approximately two hours from 11:10 p.m. to 1:09 a.m.


During the outage, Fire & Rescue units responded to two medical emergency calls which involved fatalities, a 91-year-old woman from Olney and a 40-year-old man from Twinbrook.


“I am calling for an immediate investigation into the outage and what impact it may have had on the County’s response times to emergencies – as well as any consequences,” said County Executive Ike Leggett.


“I also want a thorough evaluation of the systems that support 911 to make sure that the systems have the stability to withstand whatever power surges or blips that could cascade into even a partial system outage. County residents must be able to count on a prompt response to emergencies.”


The AECC had been activated approximately three and a half weeks ago to allow hardware changes to be made at the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) located in Gaithersburg. Using the AECC is a standard process conducted whenever an alternate location is necessary.


During the two hours of interrupted service, alternative plans to receive and dispatch emergency plans were put into operation. Notification to the public was made through public safety social media and through the County’s Alert Montgomery emergency alert system. The public was advised to make emergency calls to their local police and fire stations, with information provided as to the numbers to call. The County’s 3-1-1 call system was activated early this morning to provide additional support.


During the interruption each fire and police district station was staffed to receive emergency calls and dispatch them. Police radios and mobile data computers located in police cruisers were fully operational and allowed communication between officers and the ability to receive dispatch information. 


The investigation into the cause of this interruption is on-going. At this stage of the investigation, it has been determined that the interruption to service was not due to an external loss of power or failure of backup generators. It is believed that it initially occurred due to an internal equipment failure of a cooling (air conditioning) system in the IT room of the AECC which then shut down the 911 system to prevent overheating.


Also impacted for a short time were the dispatch console-specific radios. However, staff quickly switched to the back-up portable radios.


Today’s message to the public included: Montgomery County’s 911 system continues to function, but as corrective action is being taken there remains the possibility that a caller could receive a busy signal.


In the event of an emergency, any caller who hears a busy signal or is unable to reach a 911 operator, should contact the following:

 

 

 

 

Release ID: 16-439
Media Contact: Patrick Lacefield 240-777-6507