Nationwide 911 Outage and The Effective Use of Emergency Notification Systems

March 10, 2017

Todd Piett

During the evening of Wednesday, March 8, 9-1-1 centers across the country began reporting a 911 outage with AT&T callers trying to call for emergency service.  Based on our own data representing nearly 20% of the nations calls, across a diverse geographic area, the impact of the outage can be seen in the chart below.  While the issue is being investigated, I thought I’d share a couple quick lessons learned on using social media and emergency notification / mass notification services to proactively communicate with your population.

ATT 911 Calls

Many PSAPs and local government officials took the initiative to tweet about the outage and share their direct dial 10-digit number.

DC notifies citizens of 911 outage

Here are couple quick lessons learned for public safety agencies:

  • Make sure your social media communications clearly describe the region for which any 10-digit number is appropriate.  Social sharing knows no geographic bounds and you can quickly find yourself answering calls from calls across the country if your message isn’t clear
  • Consider using your emergency notification system to message your impacted population.  Not only is this an effective way to get the message out via social media, text message, voice calls and other modes, it also ends up being a great way to advertise and get citizens to opt-in to the service.  Your message should include a prompt to share awareness of both the 911 communications issues as well as the emergency notification service.

Our national emergency number system is robust and outages are rare; however, when a 911 outage or issue arises it is best to be prepared.  Rapid and effective outbound communication can help reduce the negative impact of an outage.

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