9-1-1? Is There Anybody There?

Imagine someone breaking into your home. You hear the sound of breaking glass. And then footsteps walking through your house. You call 9-1-1… and nobody answers.

Or imagine your loved one suddenly collapsing. Crumpling to the floor, clutching their chest in pain. You dial the familiar number for help, but you get a busy signal.

This happened last week. A widespread 9-1-1 outage affected 18 states and lasted for three hours. It didn’t affect everyone — just AT&T customers. And so far, AT&T is staying tight-lipped about what happened.

But the FCC is investigating. 9-1-1 going down is a rare thing and a massive outage like this grabs the attention of the government.

To me, it doesn’t come as a surprise. The infrastructure that supports the 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system is like any other massive infrastructure in our country… aging and falling apart fast.

The 9-1-1 system is a hodge-podge of parts and technology, some of which isn’t even made anymore. The director of government affairs for the National Emergency Numbers Association, a man who is also a cybersecurity expert had this to say: “The reliability of the system is really astonishing given the age of some of the components.” In other words, he’s surprised it hasn’t failed yet.

Like our power grid, it may just be a matter of time before the 9-1-1 system starts to experience cascading failures. And eventually something like that could knock the entire system off line.

That means you should know who you will call for help if ever 9-1-1 isn’t picking up.

Read more about the recent outage right here.