D.C. 911 system suffers ‘catastrophic communications failure’

Power outage leads to disruption in emergency radio communications

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The center that handles the District’s 911 calls and dispatches police and fire experienced a “catastrophic communications failure” Tuesday when the facility lost power, officials said.

The power outage at the Unified Communications Center disrupted the police department’s radio communications for five minutes and disabled the 311 information call line for 16 minutes, a spokeswoman for the Office of Unified Communications said Tuesday.

A back-up radio system kicked in for the D.C. fire department and the agency was able to maintain communications, the agency said in a statement, though firefighters complained that their main dispatch channel was down for some time.

The 911 call center lost power at 12:47 p.m. Officials did not give an exact time that power was restored, but said in a statement issued at 4:30 p.m. that operations were back to normal.

The agency declined to answer follow-up questions about how long the outage lasted and how many calls might have been affected.

Officials noted irregular interruptions in the building’s power supply beginning Monday and requested the facility be put on back-up generators. The generators failed, disrupting telephone and radio communications for the city’s emergency responders.

The communications center was working Tuesday to determine what caused the power outage.

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