Disruption to 911 calls linked to network issue

A connection failure disabling emergency calls could happen again, warns the Department of Public Safety Communications.

The warning follows a report about the Aug. 7 incident when calls, including some to 911, were not connected during a six-hour outage.

The Information and Communications Technology Authority said Tuesday that the disruption was the result of a LIME network outage.

DPSC director Brent Finster said there is potential for such an outage to happen again.

“If the voice carriers connect directly to the Public Safety Communications Centre’s 911 system, it would then eliminate a single point of failure which is outside of the control of those other carriers,” Mr. Finster said.

“It not only affected calls placed to 911, but it also affected the ability to call other customer numbers over that time period. In this particular network outage, the 911 calls from Digicel couldn’t be delivered to our equipment because of the outage of LIME’s equipment.”

LIME chief executive officer Bill McCabe said a power outage in Jamaica had caused a capacity problem on the mobile signaling required for 911 calls.

“This meant some calls may not have completed to the service,” Mr. McCabe said. “We are reviewing the network configuration to ensure the backup systems are optimally configured which will minimize the potential for disruption in the future. LIME is working closely with the ICTA during this review.”

A statement from the ICTA said the board considers it “incumbent on all telecoms licensees to ensure uninterrupted access to 911 emergency communications for all users in the Cayman Islands.”

“LIME reported to the authority that the outage occurred as a result of a power failure in one of LIME’s switching centers which is located outside of the Cayman Islands,” the statement said.

“Due to a lack of direct connection between telecoms licensees, and a lack of direct connectivity by telecoms licensees to the 911 facility, all telecoms licensees depend on LIME’s network to connect 911. The other licensees reported varying degrees of disruption depending on how they connect with LIME and what call service they provide.”

The authority has met with the Department of Public Safety Communications, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, and Governor Helen Kilpatrick to discuss ways to ensure uninterrupted calls to 911. The ICTA will also meet with all licensees to discuss the issue.

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