Phone workers accidentally shut off 911

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2002

Reprogramming public pay phones so people can't rig them to make free local calls caused what may have been a 12-hour outage of Juneau's 911 system Tuesday, officials at Alaska Communications Systems said Thursday.

The emergency 911 systems links callers with police officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters from one central dispatch office at the police station.

Police said they don't know when the outage occurred. The last 911 call on Tuesday came in at 10:36 a.m., said Lt. Walt Boman. At about 10:30 p.m. police received a call on its business line from an alarm company employee who couldn't get through on 911. "To our knowledge, no one missed service because of the outage," said Boman.

Boman said service was restored shortly after midnight Wednesday.

Jim Collard, general manager for ACS - which handles the 911 phone lines - said the glitch occurred because of unrelated work the company was doing to the main computer that controls phones in the system. When technicians worked on the system so that people could not make free calls from pay phones, they reprogrammed the system, including 911, Collard said.

Outages on the 911 system happen less than once a year, Boman and Collard said. Tuesday's outage was not due to equipment or cabling problems so none of the usual alarms went off. Collard said the company will do a 911 check after every programming adjustment. In the event of an emergency during an outage, people should call the police on its non-emergency line at 586-0600.

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