After 2 deaths during 911 outage, Montgomery Co. exec seeks investigation

WASHINGTON — Two people died during an hours-long outage of Montgomery County’s 911 system Sunday night, and the county’s top leader is now calling for an investigation into the glitch.

“I am calling for an immediate investigation into the outage and what impact it may have had on the County’s response times to emergencies — as well as any consequences,” County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett said in a statement.

The system went down at 11:10 p.m. and was down for two hours before a backup system was put online to take emergency calls. Around 7 p.m. Monday, the county said there should be no further interruptions of service through the night.

Leggett said that during the outage, county fire and rescue personnel responded to two calls that involved deaths. Radios used by dispatchers also went down. Leggett said portable backup radios had to quickly be put into operation.

Engineers spent the day trying to get the county’s main 911 system back online.

Meanwhile, the county is operating on a nondigital backup system that is unable to accept a large number of calls at once — which means callers on may still be receiving busy signals when calling for help.

Leggett said callers who are still getting a busy signal should call 311 or contact their local police department  or fire department directly.

Public Safety officials urge all residents and business owners to determine which Police District stations are closest to them in the event of an emergency.

  • 1st District Rockville Station 240-773-6070
  • 2nd District Bethesda Station 240-773-6700
  • 3rd District Silver Spring 240-773-6800
  • 4th District Wheaton 240-773-5500
  • 5th District Germantown 240-773-6200
  • 6th District Gaithersburg 240-773-5700

Those who are unsure about their District can view a map to help locate the nearest station.

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for Leggett’s office, said the limited queue will be in place until the main server is re-configured and put back online.

The cause of the outage stemmed from a faulty air-conditioning unit for the county’s backup 911 system. The county executive said the unit malfunctioned resulting in a power surge or blip that caused the backup system to go down.

Leggett said the county had been operating on the backup 911 system, while the county’s main system was being updated.

“The systems that are in place now, we think are appropriate for us to handle the ongoing emergency situations in Montgomery County for the foreseeable future,” Legget told WTOP.

When lines went down, the county and its many safety agencies took to social media and used the Alert Montgomery system to notify residents. The messages urged anyone who received a busy signal to use 311 or call their local police or fire departments.

The 311 system was staffed earlier than usual so emergency calls could get routed to the correct agency.

Police and fire stations were staffed to handle the extra call volume during the interruption, Leggett said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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