Friday, July 19, 2024

Police in action Feb. 20, 2023, in Cambridge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The 911 emergency dispatch system experienced sporadic issues statewide for a little less than two hours Tuesday, leading police to recommend use of alternate numbers.

The outage ended at around 3:30 p.m., Cambridge police spokesperson Robert Goulston said.

The previous outages were about two and a half months ago, on April 12, when Cambridge suffered sporadic problems for a little under five hours. The causes for both days have been unstated. “We did not know the cause of the outage,” Goulston said at the time. “State 911 Department did not provide any details.”

Again on Tuesday, it was unclear from state officials whether the outage – by that time in place for around an hour and a half – resulted from a power problem, the day’s 94-degree heat or something else.

Calls coming in by 911 on Tuesday could be heard, but not responded to, so police had to dial back to whatever numbers are using the system. Using other numbers allowed for conversations immediately, Goulston said.

Problems in April affected primarily the ability of dispatchers to log into the 911 system. Calls were dropped or rerouted to the wrong dispatch center before service was restored, said officials with Cambridge and Somerville.

In a 911 outage such as Tuesdays, Cambridge officials advised people to turn to a few alternative phone numbers.

Cambridge fire non-emergency: (617) 349-4900
Cambridge police non-emergency: (617) 349-3300
Cambridge fire emergency: (617) 876-5800
Cambridge police emergency: (617) 864-1212

In Somerville, police advised dialing (617) 625-1212 to reach police dispatchers.

Officials had yet another alternative to offer. “As we have been reminded in the past with recent cell communications disruption, everyone is reminded that our city fire alarm boxes are always operable. Our fire alarm boxes operate on old, but simple and proven, reliable technology. They are maintained by the City’s Electrical Department staff. For a fire or emergency, pull the hook on the city fire alarm box and help will be immediately dispatched,” they said in an afternoon email.

The problem in April stretched as far as Springfield, which was the case again Tuesday. The State 911 Department “is aware of a disruption to the 911 system and is investigating the cause,” a spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said.