911 Services Go Down in Massachusetts, System Crash Suspected

The statewide 911 system in Massachusetts was back online last Tuesday afternoon after going down for nearly three hours, leaving officials scrambling to notify the public of possible alternative methods to reach emergency services.

Law enforcement agencies first reported that outage at about 1:00 p.m. on June 18. At 3:45 p.m., the Massachusetts State Police announced that the system was restored but did not say what caused the outage in the first place.

Elaine Driscoll from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said it was unclear how many communities in the state were affected.

When the system first went down, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox advised residents to call local police departments directly in case of an emergency. He said fire or paramedic-related emergencies could be reported at the local call boxes fire departments installed on street corners.

Mayor Michelle Wu assured Boston residents that they shouldn’t hesitate to call the direct number of local police, fire stations, or paramedics in case of an emergency.

Tufts Medical Center media relations manager Jeremy Lechan said the hospital was unaffected by the outage since its “internal emergency number for Public Safety” continued to function while the 911 system was down and first responders could still be reached.

The brief disruption in Massachusetts caused some confusion in neighboring states after some residents also received a notification on their cell phones about the system outage. However, authorities in surrounding states all confirmed that their 911 systems were fully functional.

The Massachusetts State 911 Department revealed on Wednesday, June 19, that the outage was caused by a system firewall, the safety feature designed to protect the 911 system from cyberattacks.

This wasn’t the first time the state suffered outages of its 911 system. Several years ago, the Massachusetts 911 system experienced sporadic outages that were blamed on outages from CenturyLink that affected some Verizon customers in the state.

A multi-state outage of 911 services occurred in April after Missouri workers installing a light poll cut a fiber line, knocking out service in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Nevada.