A series of weekend outages that hobbled Oakland’s 911 dispatch network brought sharp criticism from the city’s police union and raised new questions about the vulnerability of the city’s emergency services.
Oakland’s 911 automated dispatching system failed Friday after a power outage caused the system to go down Thursday night, according to the Oakland Police Officers’ Association. The problem was fixed for less than 24 hours before service was disrupted again on Saturday morning, city officials said.
Backup generators went down after a power failure on Thursday, and the city’s 911 system crashed. Even though 911 phone lines were quickly restored after the initial outage, the computer-aided 911 dispatch system could not be restarted and remained inoperable, the police union said. Calls were temporarily slower than normal, the city tweeted Thursday night.
The computer-aided system that supports dispatchers in routing calls went down again about 8 a.m. Saturday and forced dispatchers to handle calls manually, the city said in Twitter post.
Until the automated system was restored shortly before 11 a.m., the city said all calls were being answered and dispatched for police, fire and medical services.
It added, “If you call 911 and your call drops or you receive a busy signal, please hang up and call back.”
‘Yesterday it happened’
The incidents drew a pointed response from the Oakland Police Officers’ Association.
“Police officers, dispatchers, and even the county grand jury all warned this would happen,” OPOA president Barry Donelan said in a statement.
The union cited an Alameda County Civil Grand Jury report released last month that warned that Oakland’s 911 system was facing “imminent collapse.”
“Yesterday it happened,” said the police union.
The association said it had little confidence in Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao’s administration after its “inept response” to a ransomware attack on the 911 system in February. A ransomware attack occurs when someone encrypts files and demands ransom to decrypt them. The encryption makes the files and the systems that rely on them unusable, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The February ransomware attack prompted the city to declare a state of emergency to expedite its attack on the malicious software as various city departments were affected.
The Oakland Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Bay City News reporter Pete Young contributed to this story.