Cops never practiced for emergency number outage; third death

Police officer and paramedic
Police officer and paramedicPhoto: Politie

The emergency services never practiced a scenario in which emergency number 1-1-2 is completely unreachable, as happened last week Monday. The police considered the chance of this situation occurring to be minimal, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security wrote in a letter to parliament. A third person died during the outage. The person went into cardiac arrest in The Hague and emergency services took longer than usual to reach them, NOS reports.

According to Grapperhaus, the KPN systems were thought to have enough "fall back provisions" to make a complete outage highly unlikely. The police assumed that in the event of an outage, the general police service number, 0900-8844, would still be available. This was not the case last week Monday, resulting in other regional and national numbers being used. Grapperhaus now ordered the outage plan to be adjusted so that the scenario of total inaccessibility is also taken into account.

The Minister wrote that other, less far-reaching scenarios such as inaccessibility or overloading of one or more control rooms are regularly practiced. 

The outage on June 24th left the emergency number and main police contact number unreachable for over three ours. A total of three people died during the outage, as far as is now known - the person with cardiac arrest in The Hague, a woman in Breda, and a person in Twente. The Haaglanden regional ambulance service, which reported the Hague death to the Healthcare Inspectorate, would not give NOS any further details about the victim for privacy reasons. 

The emergency services in all three deaths stressed that it is not clear whether the victims died as a direct result of the outage - it is not known whether they would have lived if the emergency services had reached them sooner. 

The ambulance service in Amsterdam is also investigating an incident in which "there was a serious delay in providing assistance" during the outage, the broadcaster found by contacting the local safety offices. In this incident the patient did not die, but did suffer medical consequences. 

Grapperhaus is working with the safety offices on investigating the consequences of the outage, and how the emergency services responded to it. The Inspectorate of Justice and Security and the Healthcare Inspectorate are also doing their own investigation.

So far the cause of the outage is still unknown, though KPN said that it was not caused by a hack and that the outage affected the telecom company's systems, not the 1-1-2 system itself. KPN also launched an online claim form for customers inconvenienced by the outage.