Power glitch causes failure in $25M 911 system

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Power glitch causes failure in Boston's $25M 911 system by Jose Martinez

Sunday, October 24, 1999

A glitch in the power supply is being blamed for temporarily cutting off electricity to the Boston Police Department's $25 million computerized 911 system, but authorities said yesterday that only three calls were diverted to a backup system during the outage.

``It is still under investigation, but at this time it doesn't appear that any 911 calls were lost,'' police spokesman Kevin Jones said.

The electrical failure did not completely knock out the 911 system but cut down the number of calls that could be answered by the 10 operators in the communications center.

Police immediately contacted Boston radio and TV stations to alert the public of the problem and to encourage people to call their local precincts instead of relying on 911 operators.

Technicians from Bell Atlantic and elsewhere were still examining the system's battery and power system yesterday, but Jones said the problem appeared to be in the equipment meant to regulate power to the computers that run the 911 system.

The trouble started at 8:22 p.m. Friday, when most of the 911 operators at the Schroeder Plaza headquarters lost their ability to answer calls.

By 10 p.m., the system was back to normal, Jones said.

In the meantime, just three of the 123 calls received between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. were transferred to the backup system at the Boston Fire Department.

None of the calls were urgent, Jones said. One was for police, another for the fire department, and the third was a hangup that remains under investigation.

Friday night's malfunction was the first time the state-of-the-art 911 system has failed since it went on line in July 1998, as the department moved into the new headquarters.

The enhanced 911 system allows operators to see the telephone number and address of the caller. The facility handles about 1 million calls a year.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 25, 1999

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