911 problems of short duration in 3 NJ Counties

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Read in New Jersey's Burlington County Times that 911 service went out in 3 Northern New Jersey Counties for 2 1/2 hours yesterday. No information about the cause. Coverage was pretty ho-hum and noone seemed too concerned.

-- eggman (eggman@bluejayway.com), November 24, 1999


Last I heard it was still not working after 10 hours. Also impacted regular phone service, not just 911. Problem was caused by "routine network testing" whatever that is...

Tick... Tock... <:00=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), November 24, 1999.

Here's the story from the Star-Ledger. <:)=

Telephone lines jammed, pagers died, Internet connections blinked out and police stations encountered minor problems with 911 service in North Jersey after a computer glitch at a Bell Atlantic switching station in Newark disrupted service in the region early yesterday.

The spotty outages plagued tens of thousands of callers in Bergen, Passaic and Essex counties with area codes 201 and 973. Some residents were unable to receive or place calls outside their immediate area all day.

Those who didn't get busy signals received condolences from an electronic voice, advising them that the circuits were busy and to please try again later. Though technicians were working to restore service last night, Bell Atlantic said the problem could linger into today.

Areas with the most stubborn problems included Millburn, Westfield, Montclair and the Weequahic section of Newark.

''They couldn't make long-distance calls and they couldn't make toll calls," said Deidre Picou, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Public Utilities.

Local service was not affected, according to Bell Atlantic.

But the snarl also forced Bell Atlantic to reroute 911 calls to police switchboards. The 911 calls went through, but without the Caller ID feature that flashes on a dispatcher's screen to pinpoint the location of an emergency.

With 911 and other telephone calls being shunted onto already heavily traveled telephone lines, electronic traffic jams built up that prompted busy signals in the area, including for some 911 calls.

''Nine-one-one calls were coming in without Caller ID, some 911 calls weren't coming in at all, and some 911 calls were rerouted," Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. The problem also had an impact on cellular telephone service to the extent that it relies on land- based switching centers.

But Bell Atlantic and police departments in the affected areas said they knew of no instance where an emergency response was hampered by the telephone problems.

In North Caldwell, police responded to the interruption of service by slapping a cellular telephone in the hands of a resident near the affected area and temporarily deputizing him as the neighborhood's emergency switchboard.

''It's working good. We haven't had any problems, thank God," said Edward Slattery, a retired supervisor for Public Service Electric & Gas.

About 300 families, many of them elderly, encountered telephone problems in the northern part of the township, police said. The same thing happened in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. Police handed a cell phone to Slattery then, too.

''We're not getting 911 in the affected area," Police Chief James Rush said yesterday. "If they try, we understand they're just getting a busy tone."

In Jersey City, a day-trading firm found that its way to the marketplace via incoming and outgoing calls in the 201 area code was blocked, according to a trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

''Did a squirrel chew through the line or what?" he said. But the firm got around the problem with 212 and 800 lines.

At the Morris County Library in Whippany, all 21 public computer terminals crashed. So did staff computers. Using two computers hooked to the Internet on lines that were not affected, however, staffers were able to help patrons search for materials.

''This happens once every five years," said John Menzel, director of reader services.

The problem began when Bell Atlantic employees, who were making scheduled improvements at a network hub in Newark, encountered a computer software glitch that interrupted service at an electronic gateway between local and long-distance circuits, Bell Atlantic spokesman John Johnson said.

The foul-up caused delays in processing connections. As technicians moved traffic onto other lines, congestion magnified problems.

''No areas were blacked out, and no local service was interrupted," Johnson said. "That means you could always get a dial tone, and you could always make a local emergency call."

Technicians from Bell Atlantic and Alcatel, the French equipment vendor, were prepared to work through the night to fix the problem.

Soraya Rodriguez, a Bell Atlantic spokeswoman, said the troubles were not related to Y2K upgrades. She said an auditor for the state Board of Public Utilities recently certified Bell Atlantic as Y2K- ready.

In October, an advisory panel to the Federal Communications Commission reported that all "switches, network elements and supporting software systems" owned by major local and long-distance carries were Y2K-ready, meaning their computers would not misread the "00" in 2000 to mean 1900 and malfunction.

Specifically, yesterday's trouble involved a computerized switching device known as DACS -- "digital access cross-connect system." Such systems route calls and data transmissions over large lines known as T- 1 and T-3 lines.

Industry observers said it's unusual for DACS problems to persist for more than a few seconds. Rodriguez said Bell Atlantic was having trouble rebooting the system after Alcatel upgraded its software.

''We were trying to reboot it, but we kept running into glitches," said Rodriguez. She said the FCC would require an investigation and that results will be made public.

Staff writers Kristin Alloway, George Berkin, Kate Coscarelli, Kevin Coughlin and Jeffery C. Mays contributed to this report.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), November 24, 1999.

I suspect we will hear a fair amount about "squirrels chewing through the lines, the backhoe did it, or trees fell on the lines" in the coming months. These excuses are on a par with the "dog ate my homework".

-- Nancy (wellsnl@hotmail.com), November 24, 1999.

"They were making scheduled improvements to a network hub..."

I would think by now, being certifified as Y2K ready, that they would have stopped upgrading their system. I, too, think we will see a lot more of this in the next month. I think most companies, utilities, etc., are not as ready as they claim. If they were, they would not be continuing their upgrades.

-- Darla (dnice@hgo.net), November 24, 1999.

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