911 Outage Left 83 Callers Seeking Help Elsewhere

Aug 7, 2014

Vermont’s 911 emergency call system failed for 40 minutes on Wednesday, officials say, causing authorities to miss calls from 83 Vermonters trying to report emergencies.

David Tucker, the executive director of Vermont’s Enhanced 911 board, was frank about his disappointment with Intrado, the Colorado vendor that runs the technology of the state’s system.

“We’re paying them a lot of money every year to ensure in part that what happened yesterday doesn’t happen,” Tucker said.

The system went offline shortly after noon on Wednesday and was back online by about 1 p.m. In that time, Tucker said, 83 people tried calling 911 to report emergencies. State workers have been attempting since then to contact everyone who called. Tucker said most of those people were able to get help by calling their local police department directly.

But authorities still haven’t been able to contact six people who tried to call 911 during the outage. Tucker said officials are still working to contact them.

In a release about the outage, Intrado Senior Vice President Steve Lowe was quoted as saying:

“Intrado goes to great lengths to design networks with multiple layers of redundancy. On August 6, 2014 we experienced a double equipment failure in our network. During system restoration, we discovered another error that caused the network to be temporarily unavailable. Intrado takes our responsibility to 9-1-1 very seriously and are working closely with the state of Vermont on this issue.”

The company’s efforts haven’t cheered up Tucker and his staff, however.

“We’re not happy,” Tucker said Thursday. "And they know we’re not happy and this never should have happened.”

Intrado’s five-year, $10 million contract with the state expires in June 2015, and Tucker said the state is in a bidding process for a 911 service vendor after that. Because of the ongoing process, Tucker was unable to provide details about any potential future vendor.

In this outage, Tucker said, all of the people who called for help seem to have ended up okay.

“So far, so good,” he said. “I’m fairly confident that nothing bad happened to anybody.”