ROCKVILLE, Md. - There are big questions and a surprising admission surrounding the big 911 outage in Montgomery County last month. The county’s 911 service went out for at about two hours on July 10.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger revealed that this happens more often that we previously knew.
The 911 system for Montgomery County has 36 lines and when it receives an overload of calls at the same time that takes up all of the lines, some calls may not go through.
“When we have a fiery crash on the Beltway or we have a severe weather incident go through, people cannot – there are times when there is a high volume of 911 calls coming through that people can’t get through on 911,” said Manger. “This happens several times a year.”
Authorities said they still don't know for sure what caused the outage in July. Preliminarily, it appears an air conditioner that kept the backup 911 system cool broke down and created a spiral effect that in turn knocked out the entire 911 system for two hours throughout the county.
Two people died during the two hours of the outage. The county said it is still looking at timelines and response times to determine if those deaths could have been avoided if 911 were working properly.
An audit on both of the incidents and Montgomery County's 911 system is underway, but those results will not be ready until the end of September.
Montgomery County council members were left to shake their heads and pointed out that this should never happen again.
"I usually have one recurring nightmare and this is the one – it's when I'm trying to call 911 and I can't get through," said Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro.
"You simply can't have your 911 system fail,” said councilmember Marc Elrich. “It failed once. We can't ever have that happen again.”
But in case it does happen again, Montgomery County’s police chief and other emergency personnel have recommended that people should keep direct phone numbers for police and fire stations handy and call them directly.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service contact information: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcfrs/connect/phone.html#stations
Montgomery County Police Department contact phone numbers: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/POL/about/fun.html