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911 dispatch center reroutes calls for about 10 hours after software snafu

Third-party vendor was updating technology at Durango La Plata Emergency Communications Center
Dispatchers take calls in June 2022 at the La Plata County Communications Center. The dispatch center rerouted calls to Montezuma and Archuleta counties for about 10 hours Tuesday after experiencing hiccups with a software upgrade. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The 911 dispatch center that handles emergency calls for Durango and much of La Plata County rerouted calls to neighboring counties for about 10 hours Tuesday and early Wednesday because of a software update that temporarily corrupted a database.

The outage lasted from about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Zeta Fail, director of the Durango La Plata County Communications Center.

The upgrade was fairly routine in that it was improving functionality and patching software vulnerabilities, she said.

It is not unusual for a software update to cause a hiccup in service, but Tuesday’s outage lasted longer than expected, she said.

During the interruption, 911 calls were sent to Montezuma County’s dispatch center and nonemergency calls were sent to Archuleta County. The calls were then relayed back to La Plata County by a regional radio system.

“As soon as they entered a call, they called us on the radio (and) we put a call in and sent a responder,” Fail said.

Zeta Fail, director of the Durango La Plata County Communications Center, said calls had to be rerouted to Montezuma and Archuleta counties for about 10 hours Tuesday and Wednesday after a software upgrade corrupted a database. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The dispatch center plans to meet with its information technology staff, 911 administrators and a third-party vendor to debrief about what happened and the overall response to the outage, she said.

The outage highlighted a need for additional equipment to ensure redundancies are in place for dealing with future upgrades and possible outages, she said.

Tuesday’s disruption in service largely went unnoticed by the community, Fail said. By rerouting calls and relaying information back to La Plata County, emergency services were still able to be dispatched, she said.

“I don’t think anybody really even knew except that they were talking to a different 911 center,” Fail said.

She did not immediately know the number of calls that had to be rerouted to Montezuma and Archuleta counties, but she said call volume was about average during the outage.

Fail said it is not unusual for neighboring dispatch centers to pick up calls when another dispatch center goes down for upgrades, but it is “pretty rare” for a 911 dispatch center to go down for as long as Durango’s went down on Tuesday.

“It broke a little harder than we would have liked,” she said. “ … We want to handle our own calls, and we want our citizens to feel confident that when they reach out to us we’re going be here.”


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