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Firewall Blamed for 911 Outage in Massachusetts

Authorities say they were able to return calls while system was down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2024 5:55 PM CDT
Firewall Blamed for 911 Outage in Massachusetts
This alert about the 911 system outage was received by users in Massachusetts and some neighboring states.   (AP Photo/Michelle Smith)

A firewall designed to prevent cyberattacks and hacking was to blame for the 911 outage that hit Massachusetts this week, state officials said Wednesday. Massachusetts' 911 system was down for about two hours Tuesday, making it impossible for anyone to reach emergency services using the number. In a statement Wednesday, the Massachusetts State 911 Department said it determined the outage, which lasted from 1:15pm to 3:15pm, was due to a safety feature that prevents cyberattacks, though the reason for that is still under review, the AP reports.

While some calls didn't go through, the state said the system "allows dispatch centers to identify the phone number of callers and return those calls." As a result, the department was not aware of any emergencies being negatively affected by the outage. At the time of the outage, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said it was important for residents to know alternative ways of getting help, particularly given the hot weather heading toward the Northeast. He advised the public to contact local police departments if necessary.

In another recent 911 outage, services in four states were interrupted when a crew installing a light pole cut into a fiber line. "You and I and everybody take 911 for granted," Brian Fontes, chief executive of the National Emergency Number Association advocacy group, told the New York Times on Tuesday. "We just always expect it to work. And, to be truthful, it works very well on good days." He added: "Not every day is a good day, as we've seen in Massachusetts today." (More 911 stories.)

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