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999 calls

Emergency operators 'resorted to paper and pen' as result of Dublin Fire Brigade call outage

An outage meant calls had to be diverted to a regional centre that did not have access to the Dublin automated system

THE 999 EMERGENCY line for Dublin Fire Brigade suffered an outage forcing calls to be transferred to nationwide call centres, The Journal has learned. 

The system, which covers the general Dublin city area, crashed at approximately 10pm on Wednesday night, but the system was later restored. 

Sources said a failsafe backup kicked in and redirected the emergency calls to other call centres, with details then passed on to fire stations around the capital. 

The calls were handled by other call centres around the country, including the one that usually handles callouts for the Munster region.

But, according to sources, as the operators did not have access to the DFB computer dispatch system they were forced to revert to pen and paper and call the Dublin fire stations directly to pass on details of the emergencies. 

In the normal course of events, callouts are sent to individual stations using and automated system which prints out an information sheet for fire brigade units giving them all the details they need in a hard copy. The outage temporarily stopped this system.

An emergency services source said: “This affected Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance and fire and rescue calls ultimately – the system, due to an IT glitch, could not accept the incoming 999 calls. 

There is a system in place to shift the calls to another centre while the problem is being fixed.

“The failure affected IT systems only within the Dublin Fire Brigade.”

Sources said there was no impact on the national Emergency Call Answering System (ECAS) which is handled by BT Ireland and that a preliminary examination determined that the problem was not associated with IT outside of the DFB. 

The ECAS system operates the national 999 or 112 call matrix and directs the caller to the relevant emergency service of Garda, fire, ambulance or coastguard. 

A BT spokesperson said, “The Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) answers all emergency calls that are made in Ireland, and connects callers to the appropriate regional control room for their requested emergency service.

“ECAS connects emergency calls to 12 regional control rooms for the four primary emergency services which are Garda, Ambulance, Fire Service, and Coast Guard.

“We were made aware of a difficulty connecting calls to one regional control centre due to an ICT issue at that centre.

“In co-ordination with the Fire and Ambulance Services we activated our agreed contingency procedures and connected those calls to the alternative control centres who were able to assist the callers.”

BT Ireland’s contract is worth between €30-€50 million and they have operated it since 2009.

The company operates emergency call centres at three locations around the country –Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, Navan, Co Meath and East Point Business Park in Dublin – the calls are then forwarded to local service centres dispatching units to calls across the emergency services.

Spokespeople for the HSE and separately the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications referred queries to Dublin City Council.

Statements were requested from Dublin City Council but none had been received as of Saturday evening.   

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