GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Following an outage earlier this week at multiple dispatch centers around Michigan, the network system that provides enhanced data sharing and connectivity to 911 centers statewide announced it is investing $6 million for upgrades.
Peninsula Fiber Network handles service for about 4.5 million 911 calls a year in most of the counties in Michigan and will soon cover the city of Detroit.
On Tuesday, several dispatch centers using Peninsula Fiber Network were hit with an outage that lasted about an hour, including those in Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Newaygo counties and the city of Grand Rapids.
The general manager of the Marquette-based company said that when workers noticed the outage, the company began working “very, very quickly” to identify and correct the problem.
“We put in a temporary fix that allowed the calls to go where they needed to go to, but we are still in the middle of a post-review to try to identify the root cause and that may take us a number of days…” Scott Randall, general manager of Peninsula Fiber Network, told News 8 in a Zoom call.
On Friday, Peninsula Fiber Network announced that it’s “investing $6 million to expedite the redesign of its network and install new optical transport network equipment that will improve the resilience of its 911 system.”
“It will make the network more robust, more reliable, but also allow us to handle this additional 911 traffic,” Randall said.
Currently, Michigan is the only state in the Midwest that has next-generation 911, Randall said.
“Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio cannot lay claim to the level of functionality that all the 911 centers enjoy: being connected to each other, people can text 911 in over 100 different languages and it goes to all the 911 call centers,” he explained.
Even with the next-generation 911 features, Randall said outages can still happen when utility poles are damaged in crashes, if there’s an electronic issue or if there’s severe weather.
“There’s impacts upon the 911 network every day. Most of them are small. The network has redundancy resiliency built into it so when it notices something, it reroutes the traffic and the network keeps functioning fine,” Randall said. “It’s very rare, thankfully, for something more significant to happen.”
With the $6 million investment, Randall said the improvements will increase the number of calls it can process as well as the additional traffic that 911 call centers may wish to handle.
“There’s a strong push in many locals to be able to transmit video, so (if) a person drives up upon an accident, they can stream video from their phone (and it) goes to the 911 call center. The 911 center would deal with it from there,” Randall said.
While it’s not yet clear whether 911 call centers want to be able to receive that traffic, Randall said Peninsula Fiber Network needs to be able to handle it if necessary.
Work on the $6 million upgrades is expected to be completed over the next several months.