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Officials don't know why 911 system failed during storm

Aaron Selbig

UPDATED on Thursday at 1pm with statement from AT&T.

Officials in Grand Traverse County want to know why the 911 system failed during Sunday’s storm.

Emergency calls in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Kalkaska Counties had to be rerouted for several hours after the storm. Some of the calls ended up at a dispatch center in Petoskey.

“All these calls were still answered by a trained dispatcher,” says Jason Torrey, deputy director for the 911 call center in Grand Traverse County. “They just weren’t trained dispatchers in Grand Traverse County during the outage."

He says the outage caused minimal delays to emergency response, because it only takes seconds for calls to be rerouted from one call center to another. But Torrey says the exact source of the outage is still unknown.

“We’re investigating the source of this particular outage,” Torrey says.

“It’s not our first outage. We’re trying to work with AT&T to see if they can identify the fail point and hopefully we can prevent it from happening again.”

AT&T operates the emergency lines, and provided the following statement:

"Due to inclement weather in Kalkaska, Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, some 911 centers lost power.  We know customers count on us to stay connected and calls to those centers were re-routed to other 911 centers in Michigan to make sure customers were still able to reach responders in the event of an emergency.  Calls were able to resume routing through their original center within a couple of hours and 911 service is now running normally."

Credit Aaron Selbig
Trees are snapped in half along M-22 outside Glen Arbor.

Emergency calls made in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Kalkaska Counties were initially patched to Benzie County, but the large number of calls overwhelmed Benzie County’s system. That led to calls being routed to Antrim County and CCE Central Dispatch 911 based in Petoskey.

The service was out in Grand Traverse County between 5 and 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Jason Torrey says the county already had plans to upgrade the phone lines in the next 12 months.