911 Call Center Power Protection Failure Causes Equipment Damage, System Shutdown

November 22, 2017

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

A 911 call center in Jefferson County, West Virginia was out of service for several hours recently, after a power outage that lasted only a few minutes.  Fortunately, calls were routed to nearby Berkeley County’s call center, ensuring emergency services suffered no disruption.

If the outage lasted only a few minutes, what happened?  The challenge was bringing systems back online and recovering critical data, before operations could be brought back online.  It turned out that backup systems and the call center did not have appropriate redundancies in place to ensure operational continuity.

County Administrator Stephanie Grove indicated that the call center’s backup batteries were faulty and unable to keep the systems running, forcing the shutdown.  While the batteries aren’t meant to deliver extended power, they are intended to support the system long enough for backup power systems to kick in without disruption service.

Following the discovery of the faulty power protection systems, the county commission, on separate occasions, approved spends of $11,000 and $15,000 to replace failed backup batteries and other damaged equipment.  The failed batteries are what forced the system offline in the first place, and additional damages were predominantly a result of the outage.

At the Jefferson County call center, damages included a broken fan and capacitor, but there’s no guarantee that other sensitive circuits weren’t also weakened, making them susceptible to failure in the future.  In fact, there may be additional expenditures to come, as Grove noted they are “still seeing a couple of minor things as a result of that outage.”

Country commissioners used the incident to understand more about the general resiliency of the technology in the facility, and while it’s fortunate that the lack of service didn’t impact the county’s emergency services, the system failure underscores the need to have properly designed and maintained power protection and backup systems in place.  While some businesses might not suffer as much from a few hours of downtime, lost data, replacement costs and time can cause significant disruption to any business.

Edited by Mandi Nowitz

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