What to do if technology fails and you cannot get through to 9-1-1

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(PHOTO: Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services/ @mcfrsPIO via Twitter)


GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Imagine having an emergency, a life or death situation, calling 9-1-1 over and over, but getting a busy signal every time.


That nightmare was a reality in Montgomery County late Sunday night, into Monday morning.


“Not only did the 911 system go down, but we had a radio communications failure as well, so dispatchers couldn’t reach the officers, officers couldn’t reach the dispatchers,” explained Montgomery County Police Officer Rick Goodale.


Technology failed for a two-hour window.  Now the county is launching a major investigation into what went wrong.


“You always think if you call 911, there is always going to be an answer, someone is always going to be there and always be able to help but we are humans, and we have technology, and sometimes that technology can fail and sometimes when that technology fails it can have some serious consequences,” said Goodale.


In this case, fire and rescue crews responded to two calls with fatalities, but only after they were called directly.


Now police want everyone to know how important it is to have a back-up if you can’t get through to 911.


“You have to be prepared for the worst,” Goodale expressed.


First dial 3-1-1, a number normally used for non-emergencies, but that is staffed to take emergency calls when needed.


Then, reach out to police and fire departments near you.


“Know the numbers of your local police district stations, and fire stations, if there is an outage, and you can’t get through to 911, call those stations directly, they are manned 24 hours a day,” advised Goodale.


He said its best to gather those numbers now, write them on your refrigerator or save them in your phone.


Police and fire departments also recommend you follow their Facebook and Twitter pages, as they will post there if and when call center technology fails.