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Erie County, NY, 9-1-1 System Done in by a Malfunctioning Air Conditioner

Date: 2016-03-31
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From a story by Sandra Tan at The Buffalo News (NY)

So much for fail-safe.

Erie County’s 9-1-1 system shut down for nearly four hours Wednesday morning – done in by a malfunctioning air conditioner.

And the failures didn’t stop there. The back-up system didn’t work either, and more than half an hour passed before anyone realized it. County dispatchers headed to a secondary location in Cheektowaga, only to discover that emergency calls that were supposed to be diverted there weren’t coming in.

Now lawmakers want answers about how this could occur after spending tens of millions of dollars in recent years on 9-1-1 equipment, maintenance, training and testing.

County administrators said they didn’t know how many 9-1-1 calls were lost during the outage but were grateful the breakdown occurred during off-peak hours. They estimated about 40 calls come in during the time period, based on past call volumes. Some emergency calls were eventually answered, but administrators said that in one test, the phone rang 30 times before a dispatcher answered.

Wednesday morning’s breakdown wasn’t the result of a single system failure, but a failure of multiple systems that ultimately paralyzed the county’s front line public safety response system. It also initially appears to be a failure of Verizon, the vendor responsible for making sure that 9-1-1 emergency calls would continue to be answered in the event of a primary system shutdown.

Read complete story at the Buffalo News

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via the Buffalo News, 3/30/16)

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