August 15, 2018 10:10 PM
Human error has been identified as the cause of a 911 outage that impacted three states on Aug. 1, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks division announced Wednesday.
CenturyLink, Minnesota's contracted 911 service provider, said an employee of West Safety Services, a third-party vendor, made a mistake while making a network configuration change. That prevented 911 calls from being connected at dispatch centers in Minnesota, North Carolina and North Dakota.
"Normally with an outage we'd receive notification on the network side but with this, we did not," Dan Craigie, the state's 911 project manager, said at a meeting Wednesday.
The failure lasted for 65 minutes and affected people experiencing emergencies and the people trying to help them.
"I think every one of us had a little different flavor of how this impacted us," said Darlene Pankonie with Washington County Communications.
From 3:47 p.m. until 4:52 p.m., 693 calls to 50 dispatch centers in Minnesota went undetected. At the time, safety staff, including Amber Schindeldecker, said they didn't know if every county was impacted and decided not to issue a statewide warning.
"We didn't want to create a scenario where people became scared or in a panic situation," Schindeldecker said.
However, during that time, 356 911 calls were successfully routed to dispatch centers through a redundant router.
The release states CenturyLink said West Safety Services has agreed to stop work on the network through the end of August while it reviews the reason for the outage, considers procedural changes and ways to enhance software and safety mechanisms to prevent future failures.
The DPS-ECN oversees the state's 911 program. The agency is in the second year of a five-year, $29.5 million contract with CenturyLink, according to the release.
Donna Kay Walters is a St. Paul resident who lives among neighbors who are frail because of age, health or impairment.
"For that much money and how the state of Minnesota supports people with disabilities, there should be adequate protocols where a mistake can't be made with something that important," she said.
Frank Rajkowski & Beth McDonough
Updated: August 15, 2018 10:10 PM
Created: August 15, 2018 02:50 PM
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