Some callers to the District’s 911 center were on hold for up to nine minutes Tuesday and 25 people hung up before speaking with call takers as a result of the facility losing power, officials said Wednesday.
Power was restored to the city’s Unified Communications Center in Southeast, but call takers and dispatchers are working out of the city’s back-up facility — the old public communications center on McMillan Drive in Northwest — indefinitely until officials can get to the root of the problem.
“Though we are back on commercial power, 911 operations is still working out of the back-up center until we feel confident that the root cause of the power outage has been determined and repaired,” spokeswoman Wanda Gattison said Wednesday.
The communications center lost power entirely at 12:47 p.m. Tuesday and remained off the grid for three minutes. The Metropolitan Police Department lost radio communication for five minutes during the outage and had to operate in back-up mode for 20 minutes after that.
“Officers couldn’t get dispatched, they couldn’t receive any information from dispatch,” said Officer Hiram Rosario, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police safety committee.
The police union has documented three other 911 center outages that effected operations in 2012, but Officer Rosario said the union has not received responses from the communications center on what caused the outages or what has been done to fix the problems.
“It’s hard for us to know what they are doing because they are not sharing with us,” he said.
The center had experienced irregular interruptions in the building’s power supply beginning Monday and requested the facility be put on back-up generators. But the generators failed Tuesday, disrupting telephone and radio communications for the city’s emergency responders.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Office of Unified Communications blamed the generator outage on a computer system failure.
A reason for the initial problems with the main power supply was not detailed in the statement and officials did not elaborate further, except to say that the problems are expected to be remedied by the addition of a secondary power feed into the building to augment the supply.
Officials did not provide a time frame for installing the secondary feed or for moving employees back into the Unified Communications Center.