Emergency number 112 outage "largely over"

NL-Alert message sent to Amsterdam region
An NL-Alert was sent to people in the Amsterdam area during a KPN outage that knocked out emergency number 1-1-2 across the country. 24 June 2019.Photo: NL Times

A disruption at telecommunications firm KPN which caused the inaccessibility of emergency phone number 1-1-2 was largely over, a company spokesperson told broadcaster NOS. The incident forced emergency services providers to scramble and quickly establish temporary solutions during the nearly four-hour disruption on Monday.

At one point, Dutch authorities even used the national emergency alarm system NL-Alert to distribute a phone number to contact police by Whatsapp in an emergency. Unfortunately, the phone number issued in the alert was the news tip hotline for newspaper De Telegraaf.

The embarrassing error compounded problems for the Ministry of Justice and Security, which has oversight over emergency management. Minister Ferdinand Grapperhuis told NOS he wanted assurances from KPN that the problem would be fixed and that the solution would be reinforced. "It shouldn't go wrong again tomorrow," he said.

Connectivity problems on the KPN network, including mobile phones, and landlines, began between 3:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. Along with 112, the main phone number for the police department was also knocked offline. More police officers were sent out on to the streets while alternative contact numbers were established.

It was not until 5:15 p.m. that authorities distributed new phone numbers people could call in a crisis. For over an hour, people in most of the Netherlands were advised to either find a cop on the street, flag down a fire truck, or physically visit a police station, fire house, hospital, or government building to report an emergency. Some rescue workers were also taking incident reports using social media platforms.

The regional safety office around Utrecht was among the first to set up a temporary phone line, and other regional authorities followed suit even before the national alternative phone numbers were established.

The alternative to 112, 088-6628240, was going to be kept online until it was definitively concluded the emergency call system was at full capacity. Once 112 is fully operational, the 088 number will be deactivated, according to Nu.nl.

The cause of the disruption was still under investigation as of 7:45 p.m., KPN said to several news outlets.