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Detroit's Emergency Dispatch System Fails 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-it-didn't-happen-somewhere-with-a-lot-of-crime dept.
dstates writes "For most of Friday, police and firefighters in Detroit were forced to operate without their usual dispatch radio when the emergency dispatch system failed. The radio system used for communication between 911 dispatchers and Detroit's police, fire and EMS crews went down around 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, causing a backlog of hundreds of calls and putting public safety at risk. Michigan State Police allowed Detroit's emergency system to use the state's communication towers, but access was restricted to top priority calls out of fear of overloading the State system. More than 60 priority-1 calls and more than 170 non-emergency calls were backed up. With no dispatch to communicate if something went wrong and backup was needed, police were forced to send officers out in pairs for safety concerns on priority-1 calls. Detroit's new police chief, James Craig, says he's 'appalled' that a redundant system did not kick in. The outage occurred only days after Craig took office. The $131 million Motorola system was installed in 2005 amid controversy over its funding. Spokesmen for Motorola said parts of the system were regularly maintained but acknowledged that backup systems had not been tested in the past two years. They said the problem was a hardware glitch in the link between dispatch and the individual radios. As of 9 p.m. Friday, a Motorola spokesman said the system was stable and the company would continue troubleshooting next week."
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Detroit's Emergency Dispatch System Fails

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  • Re:Expected (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @01:24PM (#44203865) Homepage

    The thing is though, all of TFAs indicate that the city had a valid contract with Motorola to maintain the system including routine testing. In spite of that, no testing happened. While your observations may have bearing in general, in this instance it seems like a well known vendor with a (perhaps undeserved in retrospect) good reputation is the source of the problem.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @01:38PM (#44203937)

    Except the fault was Motorola's. But don't let facts get in your way.

  • Re:Expected (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 06, 2013 @02:16PM (#44204123)

    different Motorolas -- it split up, the part Google got is the phone making one, but the radios one is Motorola Solutions

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 06, 2013 @02:46PM (#44204247)

    After a disaster, you'll see people talking on Nextels, not relaying messages through HAM operators.

    Might want to check on that, there are no more "Nextels", as the iDEN network was shut down on June 30th (though there is a regional provider in the southeast (SouthernLinc) that still supports the iDEN technology). Amateur radio does not rely on the cellular/landline/satellite communications infrastructure, and in a real disaster would be available instantly to assist with emergency communication needs.

    HAMs can only practically set up fixed locations, which are already served by landlines or personal cell service.

    Not sure where you are getting this, however Amateur radio operators are able to operate mobile as well as fixed locations. And during a disaster, there is a real possibility that landlines and personal cell services could be disrupted. There are a number of HAM organizations that operate repeaters throughout the country that provide mobile HAMs extended communications areas. Perhaps a HAM in every squad might not be practical, however claiming that Amateur radio for emergency communications isn't relevant simply isn't true.

  • by blocsync (320897) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @03:29PM (#44204547) Homepage

    Actually, I don't need to speak to "HAMs that have actually attempted to participate in such activities within the last decade." As I am one. I'm not sure what bad experience you've seen with what sounds to have been a poorly organized net. However, it does not describe the entire community and it definitely doesn't apply to all situations. I don't think I've ever heard an actual "radio check" on a live emergency net either. Net Control tends to get very annoyed about low priority traffic like that.

    Perhaps you're speaking only of a specific area or a specific group of HAMs, but I don't believe your comments apply everywhere.

    Clearly in this situation, All Police/Fire/EMS/Dispatch personnel could have used Cell Phones to fill the void, but they didn't. There's a string of failures here, not just one system failing. My suggestion wasn't to replace their coms completely with HAMs, rather to use them in an organized NET to handle the lower priority calls, due to the concern over high volume on the state radio system.

    I think people underestimate the degree to which people will volunteer and assist public services when called upon. You can criticize HAMs/Red Cross/etc... all you want for their failures, I'll judge them on their successes when few others are stepping up at all.

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