Systemic failures caused Erie County 911 outage

Posted at 3:59 AM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 12:38:30-04

Emergency officials say that 911 service was mostly restored in Erie County at 7 a.m., after an outage that started around 3:30 a.m. That was three and a half hours after the outage began.

According to Erie County's Emergency Services, two backup systems for the 911 call center didn't work as planned. Erie County Executive (D) Mark Poloncarz says calls were routing to Buffalo and Tonawanda dispatchers instead of the designated four dispatch centers.

"If the system ever went down here Amherst, Tonawanda, Cheektowaga and Hamburg would immediately be rerouted with all the calls," said Poloncarz. "It appears that only Tonawanda and the Buffalo Fire call centers were receiving calls."

Other 7-digit numbers were released for emergency calls.

The outage was caused after a cooling system failed at the county's 911 center. The system began to overheat, which forced the systems computers to shutdown. Two back-up systems, which would have rerouted calls and notified county officials about the system failure, also didn't work.

"The backup system that is part of this building is controlled by Siemens which is suppose to notify county personnel of a shut down of these type of HVAC locations - didn't activate," said Poloncarz. 

7 Eyewitness News called Siemens to get answers about what happened but they said, "No comment."

7 Eyewitness News asked for a tour of the call center, but his staff said: "Please be advised that no tours or video availability will be happening at the Center today."

Shortly thereafter, Poloncarz took a tour of the facility, tweeting photos from inside:

According to Poloncarz the other backup system relies on Verizon, which helps in rerouting calls. 

Erie County Legislator Edward Rath (R) is demanding a hearing on April 7th to look into the failures. Poloncarz had harsh words from Rath:

Mark Poloncarz: If you make cuts, don't be surprised when thin...

Erie County Executive has some harsh words for a legislator who's calling for a hearing after the county's 911 system went down overnight."I've been up since early in the morning. I'm fairly confident Legislator Rath was sleeping in and then calling for a hearing without doing anything to make a difference."

Posted by WKBW-TV on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In the meantime Commissioner of Emergency Services for Erie County Daniel Neaverth Jr. said the problem is being reviewed.

"What we're doing now is addressing with Verizon and Intrado with those folks, as to why when we did actually have a hard shut down it didn't transfer to those four back-up systems," said Neaverth. "That's really where the investigation needs to be and once we get an answer from them we'll have a better handle on making sure this never happens again."

Neaverth said there were no serious emergency calls during the shut down. He said on average they receive 45 calls during that time.