Douglas County residents with land line telephones weren't able to call 911 for a brief time Thursday night. What happened?
The issue was reported around 10:25 p.m. While the land line connection was down, cell phone users calling Douglas County dispatch were not impacted.
“My people did great, the vendors did great, it took everybody to finally get to the problem ‘cause it was not an easy problem to find,” said Douglas County 911 director Mark Conrey.
The problem was that instead of getting regular 911 calls, operators were getting calls from all over the region, calls that were supposed to be normal long-distance calls. Emergency operators went from answering about 120 calls an hour to 200 calls a minute. That overloaded the system so automatic fixes took control. One of them involved killing 911 on hard line phones. It took more than an hour to find and fix the problem.
Investigators determined it was an accident, man-made or computer driven, but the mistake also revealed a weakness in our 911 system. “The concern is what would happen if this were ever done intentionally. We have some vulnerable spots. Nowadays, they call it cyber-security or a cyber-attack. If you think about it, if someone could make a bunch of 911 calls and get into the system, this is what it would be like.”
Officials said this accident was a tremendous opportunity to learn and possibly make modifications to the system. Conrey says the problem was with AT&T. For some reason their long distance calls were routed to the 911 center.