DC 911 outage caused by human error

- D.C.'s 911 system outage over the weekend was caused by a maintenance worker flipping the wrong switch, officials said Monday.

The outage began around 11:30 p.m. Saturday and ended just after 1 a.m. Sunday, resulting in callers being unable to get through to 911 or being put on indefinite holds.

Officials said Monday that a contractor was trying to find the switch to turn off a water leak alarm that was sounding in the Office of Unified Communications when he accidentally shut off power to the 911 dispatch center.

"There's a large investigation going on into exactly how it happened and what training the individual had. He had to be trained to be here, and he had to have clearance to be in the room," said says Director Chris Geldart, with D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Even with the worker’s mistake, 911 calls should have been automatically rerouted to the back-up center near Howard University. Geldart said dispatchers rushed to that center Saturday only to find the back-up system failed. Eventually, workers were able to manually reroute the calls to the back-up center and 911 service was restored. It’s still under investigation why the back-up plan didn’t work as it was supposed to.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that an after-action report is in the works. “It’s safe to say that at least a couple off major things didn’t happen the way they should,” Bowser said. She said she wasn’t aware of any major incidents where citizens didn’t get the help they needed.

During the outage, police and fire communication equipment was also impacted, and, according to officers, there didn’t seem to be a uniform response by the different districts. Some officers told FOX 5 they were ordered to return to their station, while others said they were told to be visible on the street in case someone needed help.

A police spokesman said watch commanders are providing details on what direction was provided to officers, and that police response will be part of the after-action report.

The contractor who made the error was not identified. Geldart said he would not be returning to the building.

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