Phone issues improving at dispatch center, outage discussed

first_imgFARMINGTON – County Commissioners received a mostly-positive report relating to phone issues at the Franklin Regional Communications Center on Tuesday, while also discussing a multi-hour outage that impacted the lines last Thursday.CL Folsom, the county’s communications director, had previously reported a steadily-worsening issue involving the dispatch center’s so-called “non-emergency” business line. Callers had been trying to contact the dispatch center on its county phone line and could not be heard by the dispatcher. The problem, which had gotten worse since December 2018, was considered a serious one even though it didn’t impact 9-1-1. Callers are not always certain whether their issues constitute an emergency, and therefore call the dispatch business line, 778-6140, rather than 9-1-1. In some cases, those business line calls represent true emergencies.GWI maintains the county’s phone service. The 9-1-1 system is separate, operating on a statewide, closed system that is managed by Consolidated Communications.Folsom said Tuesday that the county had seen significant improvement in regards to the issue. Only two instances of the problem have been recently reported: a cause has been identified for one of the calls while the other is still being researched.A separate issue relating to GWI hit the dispatch center last Thursday, when it endured a six-hour outage of its non-9-1-1 phone service. The timing, Folsom noted, was particularly bad as the dispatch center was dealing with a bomb threat purportedly targeting a Regional School Unit 9 bus. Due to buses being on the road during the threat, the response was a complex one that involved local, county and state police, fire departments and other public entities such as school personnel from multiple districts. A Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigation identified a 10-year-old elementary student as the alleged caller later that evening; that juvenile has been charged with terrorizing.The outage was caused by a generator that failed to deliver power to a Portland-area building that houses GWI’s datacenter, among other companies’ equipment, after an accident in the area interrupted commercial power. After the battery backups failed around 12:22 p.m., GWI’s servers went offline. Central Maine Power soon restored commercial power following the accident, but it took until 9 p.m. for the network to stabilize.During the outage, Folsom said, callers to the dispatch center would get busy signals or experience other issues. Dispatchers enabled a countywide chat system to allow interdepartmental communication and Folsom provided agencies with his cellphone number to create a point of contact. An alternative number that was functioning was posted on Facebook.On Tuesday, commissioners approved the installation of two landlines and three phones at the dispatch center to act as a failsafe. Unlike the typical countywide system, which uses Voice over Internet Protocol plugging into the GWI servers, these would be actual landline phones with an alternate public number to be used during outages. One line would be public, Folsom said, while the other would be reserved for emergency communications.That way, if the VOIP system went down again, the dispatch center could continue to use those landlines to communicate. Having such backups is a common practice across the state, county officials said.The cost of all new phones and lines is $75 per month. Commissioner Clyde Barker and Chair Terry Brann were unanimous in approving the installation.Both Folsom and Jim Desjardins, the county’s technical service manager, said that GWI had been responsive to both the outage and the now-improved phone line issue. Two, $1,800 credits had been provided to the county.In other business, commissioners approved requiring county employees to utilize direct deposit for their paychecks as of March 1. That change, which will impact roughly eight people, is estimated to save the county $1,000 a year in supplies and other associated costs.last_img

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