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Boone County Joint Communications Center Investigating 911 System Delay

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Directors of the Boone County 911 center are piecing together what happened Thursday after a nearly five-hour emergency system delay. Center employees began receiving calls from citizens around 2:23 that their 911 calls were not being answered. Joe Piper, Deputy Director of Boone County Joint Communications, said it wasn’t soon after citizens’ concerns that he realized the impact of the delay. 

“We knew something was going on, but we were getting 911 calls. What we didn’t realize at that point in time is that we only had one 911 trunk that was working in the 911 center. So, therefore, we were getting 911 calls. We didn’t realize that we only had one 911 trunk. Ordinarily, we have 14,” Piper said. 

About an hour later, the center had to start rerouting emergency calls after callers dialing 911 couldn’t get through at all.

“At around 3:45, all of our 911 lines stopped working. So we weren’t able to receive any 911 calls,” Piper said.

Piper said the communications center began to reroute all 911 calls to an alternative number through its phone provider, CenturyLink. The Joint Communications Center informed the public of the outage by posting on social media sites and notifying media. Extra precautionary measures were taken in case of highway emergencies by sending a notification to MODOT for motorists to call *55 in the event of 911 assistance being needed. Additionally, the communications center sent staff to their backup center, and the Boone County Fire Protection District sent staff to fire stations.

“We did a lot of things on our end that went really well. That doesn’t mean everything went perfectly. We will certainly sit down after the fact and see what we can do better on our side of things,” Piper said.

While the center was back up and running at 7:45 p.m., the cause of the initial delay and eventual outage is still under investigation. Piper said CenturyLink blames the outage on a failed mixer card on a 911 switch. Once a thorough preliminary investigation is complete, Piper said officials with the center plan on sitting down with CenturyLink to discuss the outage and prevent future ones from occurring. As for now, Piper is prioritizing the citizens of Boone County who reached out for emergency assistance Thursday.

“At this point, we don’t know if we did miss calls. We don’t know what calls or how many calls were missed. We do have a request in to the phone company to see if they can provide us that information,” Piper said.