The Bill Gates-founded Microsoft corporation apparently runs America’s emergency service lines these days, as callers in Washington, Minnesota, Arizona, Delaware and elsewhere where the software is used by local police departments were met with busy signals upon trying to call 911.
Many police departments tweeted that day that those in need of emergency help should call the local fire department or another government agency as an alternative.
“As of 5 p.m., City phones and emails are experiencing intermittent outages related to a larger Microsoft 365 outage,“ tweeted the City of Redmond, Wash., one of the areas affected by the outage. “We are hoping the issue is resolved shortly. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
Panic quickly spread as police departments realized that they were not alone and that the entire country was basically disabled from accessing 911 emergency services for the day.
“ATTENTION: The 911 lines are not operational nationwide,” tweeted the Minneapolis Police Department, which was recently defunded in response to the death of George Floyd.
“This is for phone calls and text messaging,” the department added. “If you need police, fire or emergency medical assistance in Minneapolis, please call” a local number. “We will advise when this issue is fixed.”
In nearby Minnetonka, a Minneapolis suburb, the police department tweeted that “911 lines are out nationwide,” warning that people in need of emergency help would have to call someone else.
Crystal, another Minneapolis suburb, urged residents to call the fire department instead, which it said “will be staffed with crews” to handle a potential influx of calls.
Responding to the nationwide failure, a Microsoft spokesman told Fox News that the company saw “no indication that the multi-state 911 outage was a result of yesterday’s Azure service interruption,” Azure being the name for Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Services.
The issue was “mostly resolved” as of Tuesday afternoon, reports indicate, though the precise cause of the outage, assuming Microsoft’s products had nothing to do with it, remains unknown.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote on Twitter that 911 is too important not to work, even for just one day and that an investigation is needed to get to the bottom of what happened.
“The one system we need to work all the time is 911,” she stated. “The FCC needs to get to the bottom of this now and figure out what is going on.”
While some departments only experienced a few minutes of interruption, others were down for many hours. And it was the City of Redmond, by the way, where Microsoft headquarters is located, that first suggested the outage was “related to a larger Microsoft 365 outage.”
Interestingly, Microsoft did admit to a massive outage, also on Monday, following an “infrastructure chance” that took down services including Office, Outlook, Teams, Power Platform, and Dynamics365.
An alternate cause of the 911 outage could be that Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) providers experienced an outage of their own that directly impacted the ability of police departments that use them to operate their emergency lines.
“PSAPs are telephony systems where 911 (or 112) emergency calls are terminated before reaching the actual emergency service call centers,” writes Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day (ZDNet).
“They’re choke points in 911 traffic, which explains why multiple emergency services across different states had issues. According to reports on Twitter, a PSAP provider named Intrado was most likely behind the 911 outage [that day].”
For more related news about the collapse of centralized infrastructure, be sure to check out Collapse.news.
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