FCC sees increase in ?sunny day? failures at emergency call centers

This month, the FCC released a startling report with a mundane title, April 2014 Multistate 911 Outage. What it describes is an event at a 911 call-routing facility in Englewood, Colorado, which, for a time stopped directing emergency calls to eighty-one 911 call centers in seven states.

The report said, “The outage was caused by a software coding error in the Colorado facility, and resulted in a loss of 911 service for more than 11 million people for up to six hours.  Over 6,600 calls to 911 never reached a PSAP [Public Safety Answering Point].”

But, “What is most troubling is that this is not an isolated incident or an act of nature. So-called ‘sunny day’ outages are on the rise. That’s because, as 911 has evolved into a system that is more technologically advanced, the interaction of new and old systems is introducing fragility into the communications system that is more important in times of dire need.”

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler commented on this alarming phenomenon at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. We have, he said, “… new, complex systems where no one is responsible, and where the system as a whole lacks reliability and resiliency is not acceptable.

“The fact that these outages occurred, and the common issues they raise, are evidence of the challenge we face, and suggest that we are at risk of experiencing far worse failures if we don’t take action now.”

April 2014 Multistate 911 Outage (FCC Report, Oct. 2014)

Tom Wheeler at National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (Oct. 1, 2014)

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