911 emergency system failure in Bay Area BY ANDREA LAMPROS AND ARIEL AMBRUSTER Knight Ridder Newspapers The 911 emergency telephone system in Alameda County, Calif., and parts of Contra Costa County, Calif., went down for two hours around 6:30 p.m. Saturday night, leaving callers to the distress line with a busy signal. Emergency service officials hoped residents in need used the seven-digit, nonemergency lines that were broadcast on television and radio shortly after the crisis began, but didn't know whether residents were stranded without emergency services. Area hospitals reported no troubles because of the 911 outage. No patients arrived at emergency rooms, unable to reach police. But the crisis worried some officials who provide emergency services. ``Does it make any citizen or public safety official nervous? yeah,'' said Stewart Gary, fire chief in Livermore and Pleasanton. ``Modern society depends on the 911 system. But acts of God happen to technology.'' The problem caused by a failure of a Pacific Bell switching station in Orinda was fixed at 8:25 p.m., according to a phone company spokesman. Oakland officials said the 911 failure could have been worse. ``Fortunately in Oakland we didn't have any fires,'' said Don Parker, assistant chief of the Oakland Fire Department. ``But Saturday night is a kind of a busy time for us.'' Parker said some callers with medical crises probably could not get through. ``People just have to use the old-fashioned way of getting ahold of emergency services, by using (area codes) 510 or 415 or whatever it is,'' said a California Highway Patrol dispatcher. Officials from several police and fire departments throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties said they notified the media with alternate phone numbers as soon as the system failed. Oakland police dispatcher Carolyn Cahors said few calls came in to the Oakland Police Department on Saturday evening. She wasn't sure if the night was simply slow or if calls weren't getting through. ``I'm not sure if as many people are calling as normal,'' Cahors said around 8:45 p.m. ``We have quite a few calls standing for service. It just hasn't been a real wild night yet-- hopefully it won't be.'' But Cahors and other dispatchers said they were worried that callers were unable to reach emergency services. Several dispatchers said some calls were getting through despite the 911 failure. ``I think there is alternative to 911 and that's the seven-digit number,'' said Brenda Bruner, acting supervisor for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. ``I don't think we're losing any calls because of it.'' The Livermore Police Department had one caller indicate that her attempts to reach police through the 911 line were thwarted. ``We have not had that many problems so far, that we're aware of,'' said Toni Dick, the Livermore shift supervisor. ``We're just kind of a little part of all of this. The big part is in Oakland and Hayward.'' In Contra Costa County, sheriff's dispatchers had trouble switching some 911 calls to other agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol and the Crockett Carquinez Fire Department. Pacific Bell told dispatchers the problem was a breakdown in a telephone switching station in Orinda, said Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf. ``As far as I know, as for people calling in, we didn't have a problem,'' said Dana Hunt, Contra Costa Sheriff's on-call watch commander. (Staff writers Joan Morris and Greg Smiley contributed to this story.) [INLINE] [INLINE] Return to top[ISMAP]-This image allows you to access site resources 1997 - 1998 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.
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