CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Dispatch centers in Greater Philadelphia are working to improve the way cell phone carriers communicate with them during 911 outages.
They want a standardized way carriers alert them of a 911 outage, after a nationwide 911 outage involving millions of AT&T customers happened in 2017.
“We have protocols and procedures for any kind of outage that we might have,” said John Haynes, the deputy director of Chester County Emergency Management. “Every time something happens we try to learn from it.”
The 2017 outage happened due to computer glitch, according to an FCC investigation that was released last May.
“This outage could have been prevented. It was the result of mistakes made by AT&T,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The Bureau’s report shows that there were shortfalls in operational redundancies, risk assessment, and stakeholder and consumer outreach.”
AT&T told CBS3 the company has since made changes.
“We’ve done an extensive evaluation and concluded the problem was caused by a system configuration change affecting connectivity between a 911 vendor and our network. We’ve taken steps to prevent this from happening again,” said Brandy Brandy Bell-Truskey of AT&T Global Media Relations.
But emergency responders believe that more needs to be done, pointing out that it took AT&T too long to alert dispatch centers of last year’s 911 outage.
“During the outage it took them about three hours to notify anybody,” Haynes said.
Eyewitness News asked Haynes, “You knew of the issue before anybody even notified you?”
“Correct,” Haynes said, “which is a problem.”
Haynes said that when an outage happens, each carrier has a different way of notifying local governments and agencies.
“Some do emails so do phone calls,” he said.
Haynes would like to see a standard list of contacts who need to be notified. He also wants that list updated every few months.
A group of dispatch centers from across the country agree and are working together to try to get those changes implemented by the end of the year.