What happens when the 911 services lines are down? A lot of people started to make this question after the outages reported on at least 14 states this Monday. 

The fall down it’s not the worst part of this situation. The most terrifying is, how even after two weeks of the happenings, there are just clues and rumors.

Our source of information comes from Washington, Delaware, and a few other counties that blamed different companies for the outage. 

A good example of this is how Microsoft, having its center on Washington, was pointed out as responsible due to a large Microsoft 365 outage.

Some of the mentioned counties reported losing connection to both 911 phone and SMS services. But curiously enough, the Microsoft 365 outage only affected email and Office-related services.

More clues come straight from the Universal Health Service hospitals, which received major ransomware attacks on the same day. So this could suggest these threats are related… But there’s no tangible evidence backing up the theory.

Let’s get ourselves into the case and see if we can find out more for ourselves.

Shall we?

How Did 911 Services Get Down in the US?

The outage took down all 911 services from 14 different states, at the same time, for around 30 to 60 minutes, before it got up and running again.

The Minneapolis police department wrote on Twitter that day: “ATTENTION: The 911 lines are not operational nationwide. This is for phone calls and text messaging.”

And the Delaware State Police followed with this statement: 

Delaware State Police Dispatch Centers are now operational and 911 calls are being received. If you call 911 and receive a busy signal or recorded message, callers are encouraged to text 911 and type your emergency in the message field or utilize the non-emergency telephone numbers.”

Earlier on the same day, phone lines and email accounts were taken down, one after the other. Suggestions are made that it really originated from PSAPs providers (Public Safety Answering Points).

Maybe this is the first time you read or hear about PSAPs. They’re basically systems where emergency calls (911 or 112) end up before getting to the actual call centers. 

This could explain why multiple states had this same problem, simultaneously.

They’re connected somehow… This way. And a Twitter report backs up this realistic theory by naming Intrado (PSAP provider) who was probably behind the outage. 

Because pointing out for fault isn’t productive, we must check on possible solutions for what’s been described as “frequent failures” in the past.

And solutions have been proposed and ignored before. In fact, the previous FCC administration wanted to change how the 911 services work. 

Not much would be changed, only but showing who’s responsible for seemingly inexplicable dial loss. That could be especially useful right now.

No-one has publicly spoken with absolute certainty about this event… And still, there’s a great chance that even if someone does, nothing much would change. 

After all, no-one wants to be at fault either, because it results in costly to the one who takes full responsibility. The same Intrado company, along with CenturyLink, who was asked to pay $16 million in 2015 for 6,600 unanswered emergency calls.

And repeated again in August 2018, when they agreed to pay $575,000 for an hour-long 911 outage like the one we reported today.

Do you think the FCC or any other entity will get to the bottom facts of it?