Next-Gen 911

State Says 'Software Glitch' Knocked Out 911 System Monday Night

During the malfunction, callers were able to reach emergency dispatchers via E-911 and pass information along, but the callers were unable to hear dispatchers talk to them through the system.

by Karen Lee Ziner, The Providence Journal, R.I. / April 25, 2017
Shutterstock

(TNS) - Rhode Island authorities blamed a computer software issue for disrupting the E-911 dispatch system for about 45 minutes Monday night.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the state police said the issue was resolved with no serious complications. While E-911 is back up and running, public safety officials and technical teams are trying to determine what caused the initial failure in two-way communication, and are working to ensure that the backup system kicks in automatically during any future malfunction.

During the malfunction, callers were able to reach emergency dispatchers via E-911 and pass information along, but the callers were unable to hear dispatchers talk to them through the system.

The problem was first identified at 7:41 p.m.; the backup system was turned on manually, and the system was fully operational at 8:26 p.m., authorities said at a news conference at state police headquarters.

"We believe it to be a software glitch," said William Gasbarro, co-director of E-911 emergency telephone system.

Terrorism has been discounted, and "we believe in no way were we hacked ... and there was no indication of a virus," said Gasbarro.

He added, "We are doing all we can to resolve this matter."

State police Lt. Col. Kevin Barry, commanding officer of the state Department of Public Safety, said, "Obviously, this is a situation that has never happened before."

The statewide E-911 system was established in 1988. Civilian dispatchers operate it at state police headquarters.

Because calls were getting through, the computer did not recognize the system malfunction and did not automatically trigger the backup system; it had to be turned back on manually.

There were 125 calls while the system was malfunctioning: state police said many were people calling more than once. Dispatchers used Caller ID to contact all but six of the callers.

There were no known life-or-death situations, Gasbarro said.

The issue slowed emergency communications, but the system was not down, said Laura Meade Kirk, Department of Public Safety public information officer.

Barry said, "We are very concerned that the 911 system did not operate as expected. We recognize that Rhode Islanders expect and deserve a 911 system that is fully operational when an emergency arises, and we will do everything in our power to ensure uninterrupted access to 911 in the future."

———

©2017 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)

Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.