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Software Failure Blamed For Vermont 911 Outage

The Vermont E-911 Board says it will take a few days to confirm what caused a failure that prevented 44 calls from getting through Wednesday.

The 42-minute failure occurred Wednesday afternoon.

Barbara Neal, executive director of the state’s Enhanced 911 Board, says FairPoint Communications, which is responsible for the system, is looking into what happened.

“They’ve indicated that the problem involved the call-taking software rather than the communications network. But they are completing a full investigation of the event,” Neal says.

The system’s call handling software is provided by a company that FairPoint subcontracts with.

Neal says her staff has been in touch with nearly all callers who couldn’t get through during what is typically a busy time of day for 911 calls. She says hose who were reporting emergencies, ended up calling local authorities.

“They were able to contact their emergency responders or their local responders. Other callers were reporting non-emergency events. We had a few mis-dials as well,” she says.

FairPoint took over Vermont’s system nearly one year ago under a five year $11.2 million contract with the state.

The system experience two failures in 2014. One happened when a primary and backup circuit in FairPoint’s network failed and a tree fell on a line.

The other involved the Colorado company, Intrado, that ran the system prior to FairPoint.

Last year a flurry of "phantom calls” that overwhelmed the system was also blamed on the Colorado company. The phantom calls prevented some legitimate calls from getting through.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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