911 problem fixed at county dispatch center
Dakota County's emergency response system is back at full strength.
On March 25 technicians installed a temporary fix for a software defect that caused a small number of 911 calls to roll into a queue meant for hang-ups and other failed calls. They had a permanent solution installed two days later.
Kent Therkelsen, executive director of the Dakota Communication Center, said dispatchers haven't noticed any problems since the temporary fix was installed.
According to Therkelsen the problem was caused by a software defect at every workstation in the 3-month-old call center.
"It was not in the servers. It was not in the infrastructure of the system. It was actually at the workstation where the dispatchers have an interface with the system," he said.
For four weeks, some 911 callers had their phone ring and ring while dispatchers were unaware anyone was trying to get through.
Therkelsen became aware of the problem when residents started reporting problems getting through. Some residents called back and got through on the second try. Others got calls back from dispatchers who thought they were responding to an ordinary hang-up.
Dispatchers always respond to hang-ups and other disconnected calls, but Therkelsen said they started paying closer attention to that call queue after residents started reporting problems.
Therkelsen thought the problem was fixed March 17, but problems returned the following weekend.
Troubles within a 911 system are unusual, Therkelsen said.
"Every 911 system has the potential for failure, but typically it is not something within the facility," he said. "It's usually weather. It could be a lightning strike. It could be a backhoe hit on a cable somewhere."
It's not clear how many calls were missed, but Therkelsen does not believe it was many. On an average day, he said, the center gets about 400 911 calls. About 40 of those end up in the failed call queue. He estimated there were only three to five more than that each day while the center had problems.
Farmington police chief Brian Lindquist was aware of only one Farmington resident who had trouble getting through. He said that person received a call back from a DCC dispatcher within minutes.
Still, Therkelsen said even a few missed calls is too many.
"That was not a good experience," Therkelsen said. "There's always that silver lining of learning more about the system and things like that, but that was just not a good experience at all and we're glad it's resolved and the system is functioning as it's supposed to be.
"We're glad to be operating normally and the public should know we are very observant about all of our systems to make sure the public is always served."