County Executive Ike Leggett is calling for an investigation into Sunday night’s 911 outage and a review of the County’s Emergency Commucations Center’s support systems.
“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 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.”
On Sunday, July 10 just after 11:00 pm., 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 pm to 1:09 am.
During the outage, Fire Rescue Service units responded to two medical emergency calls which involved fatalities, a 91-year-old woman from Olney and a 40-year-old man from the Twinbrook section of Rockville.
The AECC had been activated approximately three and a half weeks ago to allow hardware changes to be made at the Emergency Communications Center 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, according to a County press release.
Late Monday, the County announced that 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.
Monday’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:
• Call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311. Police officers and Fire and Rescue personnel are on duty at the MC311 call center to assist with any emergency calls.
• Or call the closest local fire station or police district station.
Public Safety officials urge all residents and business owners to determine now which Fire and Rescue Station and Police District station are closest in the event of an emergency.
5th District Germantown 240-773-6200
1st District Rockville Station 240-773-6070
2nd District Bethesda Station 240-773-6700
3rd District Silver Spring 240-773-6800
4th District Wheaton 240-773-5500
6th District Gaithersburg 240-773-5700
In case of a fire, the public was advised to call the fire stations directly. The Germantown/UpCounty area stations are listed below.
STATION 22 - Kingsview
Germantown Road, Germantown.
STATION 29 – Germantown Volunteer Fire Department
20001 Crystal Rock Drive, Germantown.
STATION 34 - Milestone
20633 Boland Farm Road, Germantown.
STATION 35 - Clarksburg
22610 Gateway Center Drive, Suite 400, Clarksburg.
STATION 13 – Damascus Volunteer Fire Department
26334 Ridge Road Road, Damascus.
STATION 9 - Hyattstown Volunteer Fire Department
25801 Frederick Road, Clarksburg.
STATION 14 - Upper Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department
19801 Beallsville Road, Beallsville.
Photo Courtesy MCFRS