911 outage left Michigan agencies scrambling for hours

DETROIT – The company that provides 911 services to police departments in most of Michigan is investigating exactly what led to a statewide emergency line outage that lasted about five hours Friday morning. 

The company, Marquette-based Peninsula Fiber Network, says a third-party power issue caused its fiber optic equipment to crash at about 2:30 a.m. Friday. 

When power was restored to the fiber optic equipment, it didn’t properly reboot, said Peninsula Fiber Network General Manager David McCartney. That knocked local, county and state police 911 call centers offline and left local authorities scrambling to alert residents to call their local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency line if 911 isn’t working. 

Peninsula Fiber Network alerted law enforcement agencies across the state immediately after learning of the outage, McCartney said. Services were restored at about 7:15 a.m.

“We are working very hard to figure out exactly what happened and why,” McCartney said. 

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McCartney estimates — based on statistics from a typical Friday morning — less than 100 calls to 911 were not directly routed across Michigan. Michigan State Police could not verify McCartney’s estimation. 

Much of metro Detroit was not affected by the outage, as law enforcement agencies in Macomb County and parts of Wayne County are not subscribed to telecommunication services from Peninsula Fiber Network. 

Detroit Police Department and Michigan State Police Metro Post dispatch centers were not affected by the outage, spokespeople from both agencies said. 

Grand Rapids Police Department had intermittent issues throughout the morning, the city’s emergency management administrator, Allison Farole, told the Free Press. 

“It wasn’t a total system failure. Sometimes the line was busy, sometimes it would connect and drop, sometimes there was a delayed connection,” Farole said. 

Farole says she isn’t aware of any public safety threat due to the outage. She says Grand Rapids police and city government swiftly communicated to the public the need to call non-emergency lines if unable to reach 911. 

Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll says he’s not aware of people trying to reach 911 for help and not being able to receive assistance due to the outage. 

MSP is not conducting an independent investigation into the outage, Carroll said. The agency expects to learn a definitive reason for the outage from Peninsula Fiber Network by Thursday. 

McCartney said Peninsula Fiber Network is exploring preventative measures. 

“We are working our best to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” McCartney said. “Every call is important and needs to be delivered.” 

Follow Omar Abdel-Baqui on Twitter: @omarabdelb 

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