- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Douglas County officials are trying to resolve an issue with its 911 system that gives callers a rapid busy signal during a system outage, but it could take years to fix.

Officials said that it could take years to fix, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2hVWZkp ) reported.

In September 2015, as many as 225,000 cellphone users in Douglas and Sarpy counties encountered the problem for nearly 13 hours.

Nebraska Public Service Commission member Crystal Rhoades said it’s unacceptable the county doesn’t have a backup plan.

“This is ridiculous,” Rhoades said of the outages, which totaled to more than 60 in the state during fiscal 2015. “It happens all the time and people aren’t aware of it.”

Mark Conrey, the county’s former 911 director, said most of the problem will be resolved with system upgrades that could be years away.

Other than giving a rapid busy signal, 911 systems can also choose to reroute their calls to an administrative line or another county in the event of an outage.

Conrey said the county’s emergency infrastructure isn’t advanced enough to reroute 911 calls and that the county handles too many calls to have them absorbed by a smaller center. In 2015 Douglas County’s 911 received more than 469,900 calls, four times as many as any other Nebraska county.

“You should always do the most that you can. In some cases, that might be sending calls to a fast-busy,” National Emergency Number Association government affairs director Trey Forgety said. “I wish I could tell you that there is some universally applicable best practice.”

Conrey said the county decided on a rapid busy signal because they expected that the majority of outages would be due to a system overload, such as a storm or when multiple cellphone users witness a public accident.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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