This is happening in Cincinnati, and in other places. 911 Outages Imperil Public Safety in Cincinnati and Elsewhere
According to an internal city document obtained by NBC News, there have been 10 911 outages since June of 2016. The latest one, just this summer, lasted three hours and 30 minutes.
Usually when I write about the problems with calling 911, the delays are in the minutes, not hours. 3 hours (or more) is a very long time when bad things are happening. It could literally be a lifetime.
The powers that be in Cincinnati trot out the standard (though at this point very lame) excuse that it is all the fault of cellphones.
“These 911 systems have been designed and built for landlines,” said Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black. “Now we’ve got the proliferation of cellphones.”
While the modern cellphone can be dated to 1983, they really didn’t show up everywhere until 1991 when generation 2 technology became available and sparked competition.
1991 was more than 25 years ago, and they are still blaming the cellphone for their incompetence. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
Since they know that no one is going to buy that excuse, Harry Black tees up standard excuse number 2, “It’s not my fault.”
Black blames most of the trouble on a private company called Comtech that runs Cincinnati’s 911 system. “We’ve got a service provider at that level who’s not been as reliable and dependable as we’ve needed them to be,” Black said.
But that contract – if it was written by anyone who has ever seen any contract ever – would have performance clauses and what would happen if a given level of performance is not met. Like penalties and withheld fees all the way up to contract termination. Which is apparently the stage they’ve reached, because Cincinnati is taking over its own 911. (What could go wrong by putting the .gov in charge?)
And of course Cincinnati is not the only .gov entity that signed up with Comtech, and they are not the only folks having problems with them.
In Connecticut, officials replaced Comtech’s system with a new company after a three-hour 911 outage hit 52 call-taking sites. And in South Dakota this year, officials temporarily suspended payments to Comtech, saying the company was “slow to fix several recurring problems found within the system.
So how did Comtech get to be so big in the 911 “industry” if they have so many problems? They didn’t answer questions for the linked article, so who knows.
The final “suggestion” is to program your local police/fire numbers into your phone in case 911 isn’t working. Works only as long as you never leave home. 911 was introduced so that if I am visiting you and you have a heart attack, I don’t have to search around for the number for paramedics. That is not as fast as me just being able to call 911 wherever I go. “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there’s a difference.”
Calling 911 is a fine thing to do in an emergency. It can send police, and fire, and emergency medical personnel to help with whatever you are facing. If what you are facing is a violent encounter, you may not be able to call 911 before bad things happen, but in any event, if the ONLY thing you are prepared to do is call 911, then you might have a problem, when that system breaks down.