911 outages in Texas, other states highlight system vulnerabilities: experts

Law enforcement agencies in multiple states are investigating what caused major 911 problems in several states, including Texas. Experts said it highlights the vulnerability of the 911 system.

"911 systems are extremely vulnerable," cybersecurity expert Matt Malone said.

From Wednesday night into Thursday morning, 911 systems in multiple states went out.

The FCC said they are investigating to "get to the bottom of the cause and impact."

The Executive Director of the National Association of State 911 Administrators said the outages in Texas, South Dakota, Nebraska and Nevada may have been because of a cut fiber when someone was installing a light pole. She said tornadoes in Ohio impacted their service, and Minnesota experienced a network outage.

"It definitely appears that there were a number of things that happened all at once," Executive Director of National Association of State 911 Administrators Harriet Rennie-Brown said.

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this was a first.

"We have never experienced an outage of this magnitude or duration," Sioux Falls Fire Assistant Chief Michael Gramlick said.


He said they were able to adapt.

"We pivoted 911 calls to remaining phone lines, Metro Communications staff's expertise and ability to shift calls to our admin line, and the availability of 911 texting provided the same dispatch services our first responders receive on any other day," Gramlick said.

Experts said all cities should have back up plans, but ultimately, a cybersecurity expert said the entire system needs to be updated.

"A 911, which is a life-threatening system, should have dual connection to the internet, should be vulnerable from ransomware attacks, should be vulnerable from cyberattacks, but unfortunately that’s not the way the system is right now, it’s very vulnerable," Malone said.

Malone said security is an issue.

"You think about the things that control our daily lives; you can shut down this country. We won World War II because we were an industrial country. Today, they could shut us down, and we’d be over," Malone said.