Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

December 6, 2013

GT 911 downed by glitch

TRAVERSE CITY — It wasn’t an emergency that rang Grand Traverse County’s 911 phone lines off the hook.

Instead, a technical snafu caused “ghost” 911 calls to continuously ring the county’s dispatch center for several hours Wednesday evening, forcing dispatchers to switch emergency lines over to Leelanau County while the issue was fixed.

“It was literally nonstop,” said Grand Traverse County 911 Director Jamel Anderson.

The problem began about 5:30 p.m. when an IT worker performed routine maintenance on the county’s main phone switch. Anderson said the work only should have affected the dispatch center’s non-emergency phone lines — which are separate from 911 technology -- but “things went kind of crazy” after a test call.

Dispatchers received a flood of so-called “ghost” 911 calls with no true callers. Anderson said there were no reports of real emergency calls lost in the chaos because dispatchers continued answering each ring.

Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County’s dispatch centers recently agreed to serve as each other’s backup during 911 system problems, but officials briefly feared Wednesday’s SNAFU would spread between dispatch centers.

“We didn’t want them to get all these ghost calls,” Anderson said. “We flipped a switch and the ghost calls stayed with us.”

Tom Skowronski, emergency management director for Leelanau County, said the switch over process was “seamless.”

“It worked as designed and practiced,” he said.

Grand Traverse County technology and AT&T workers sorted out the problem by about 8:30 p.m. Anderson said the problem came down to a bad “comm card” and a replacement was found in the county’s old law enforcement center.

Information about Grand Traverse County 911 and alerts about emergencies can be found on the dispatch center’s Facebook page.

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