74 emergency calls failed after telephone exchange flooded
Ofcom has today fined KCOM £900,000, after uncovering a serious weakness in the telecoms company’s emergency-call service.
An Ofcome investigation found that KCOM, which operates the main telephone and broadband network in Kingston upon Hull, broke an important rule designed to ensure everyone can contact the emergency services at all times. This is crucial to public health and safety.
Ofcom expects telephone companies’ emergency-call services to be resilient. They should ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that emergency calls can be connected at all times, even in challenging circumstances.
What went wrong
On 28 December 2015, KCOM notified Ofcom that its emergency-call service for the Hull area had failed for around a four-hour period.
KCOM attributed this failure to flooding at one of BT’s telephone exchanges in York, in the wake of Storm Eva. As a result, 74 attempted calls to 999 or 112 from 34 different numbers failed to connect during this period.
Ofcom’s investigation found that all emergency calls from customers in the Hull area relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York, which was a single point of failure in KCOM’s emergency-call routing.
To meet Ofcom rules, KCOM should have been able automatically to divert emergency calls via back-up routes. While our investigation found that KCOM did have back-up routes in place, it later became clear that these also relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York.
To resolve the incident and address the weakness in its emergency-call routing, KCOM created an alternative route to carry emergency-call traffic that bypassed the flooded telephone exchange in York. It did so within two hours of identifying the problem.