Some 911 calls not going through at Dakota Communication Center
Kent Therkelsen expected some technical problems when Dakota County consolidated its emergency call center in Empire Township. He just didn't expect this one.
Since Feb. 23 Therkelsen, executive director at the 3-month-old Dakota Communication Center, has been trying to figure out what is causing some 911 calls to roll over to a queue that typically handles calls that have disconnected because the caller hung up or a cell phone cut out. Callers hear ringing, but the call never gets connected to dispatchers.
Technicians put a software solution in place March 17 and everything was fine for four days, but the issue showed up again over the weekend.
"We felt very comfortable as of last Friday that we had this thing under control and it wasn't going to be a problem for us," Therkelsen said this week. "We're very concerned. This is totally unacceptable to us and our customers. Obviously we're very committed to getting it fixed."
Therkelsen said the number of calls coming in to the failed-call queue has not grown significantly in recent weeks so he is confident only a few callers are having trouble. Since the DCC realized there was a problem dispatchers have watched the failed-call queue more closely and have called back anyone whose call went to the wrong place.
Farmington police chief Brian Lindquist said he is aware of only one local problem in recent weeks. A Farmington resident tried to call 911 with a medical emergency and didn't get through. She called the Farmington Police Department and Lindquist responded. When he showed up a little over two minutes later the woman told him she'd already gotten a call back from the DCC.
Therkelsen has had several meetings and conference calls with Independent Emergency Systems, the Hutchinson-based company the DCC contracted with to install the system, and with Plant CML, the company that provided the system. He hopes to have a solution in place soon, but said as of Tuesday there was no way to know exactly when the system would be fixed.
"We'd be thrilled if it's today," Therkelsen said. "That's not soon enough.
"This is getting attention at the highest levels of the organizations that need to deal with it, which is us, which is IES," he said. "We certainly anticipated with a consolidation of this size and this complexity that there would be some surprises, including technology. But we really did not expect it to be this particular issue. 911 systems are notoriously reliable."
Therkelsen said even with the problems 911 is the best number to call for emergencies. If it doesn't work and nobody calls back, residents can call 322-2323. That number will work from either the 651 or the 952 area code.