State suffers ‘mystery’ 911 outage in latest troubling infrastructure mishap

Officials in western Michigan are investigating why 911 services in their part of the state were shut down for a period of several hours on Tuesday afternoon.

The outage, which began around 4pm and reportedly lasted around an hour, affected a number of communities in western Michigan including the city of Grand Rapids and Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Newaygo and Ottawa counties. Some officials reported that the issue was impacing the majority of the state.

Government agencies communicated with the public about the outage in a number of different ways, releasing alternate emergency numbers for the public to use while the outage continued.

“We started to have what we call Annie Alley issues, which is location and number information wasn’t coming through,” Jason Torrey, the Grand Traverse County 911 Director, told WPBN-TV in Traverse City. “Then we did some test calls, and we noticed we didn’t have any 911 events that were processed appropriately to the workflow.”

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The state network provider ultimately was able to isolate the program and get the 911 service back online, but not before dispatchers had what Mr Torrey described to the TV network as a very busy afternoon fielding a range of calls — including emergency calls — on the city’s non-emergency lines.

As of Wednesday, officials are still unsure what or who was responsible for the outage — a troubling instance of a critical infrastructure failure at a time when some are on heightened alert given that authorities fear extremists are targeting the US power grid in various places across the country.

Mr Torrey told WPBN-TV that Peninsula Fiber Network is expected to produce a report on the outage, which could eventually shed light on what caused Tuesday’s issue.

The network has had difficulties with a power outage before. In 2020, a technical issue during a system update was responsible for a four-plus hour power outage across the state.