New measures to boost resilience of 999 call system

New measures to boost resilience of 999 call system

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  • A government review published today helps bolster the resilience of the 999 call handling system following a technical failure last summer.
  • The incident, the first in almost 90 years, has prompted the introduction of further safeguards to ensure continued public confidence in the emergency call management system.
  • The measures aim to ensure a rapid and coordinated response to similar incidents in the future.

The new measures will increase the resilience of the 999 call handling system, after the first technical failure of its kind in almost a century hit the platform last summer.

A notification system has been implemented between BT, the emergency services and the UK Government to ensure that all ambulance groups and police forces can quickly implement a co-ordinated response.

In the unlikely event of a future incident, the government would also issue public advice on what to do to continue reaching emergency services.

The new measures come as the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology today (March 21, 2024) published a review of the extremely rare incident that occurred last July and set out six recommendations to strengthen the robustness of the system.

While the emergency call service has historically proven to be very resilient, the review represents an important step in ensuring that potential future risks to the public are minimised.

The most pressing recommendation has now been completed, and BT has implemented immediate improvements to its systems to prevent similar events in the future.

Immediately following the event, BT launched a thorough investigation into the failure and published its report on 29 July, taking full responsibility for the outage and recognizing the critical national importance its 999 infrastructure plays.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said:

The incident in June last year marked the first significant disruption to the 999 system in almost 90 years. We are determined to prevent history from repeating itself, with public safety being absolutely paramount.

This is why, following a thorough review of the incident, we are working with BT to put in place enhanced resilience measures, ensuring the UK is always prepared to effectively deal with major emergencies.

The government remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding the safety and well-being of the public.

In addition to measures to improve risk management and communications, the new recommendations focus on improving the UK government's oversight during potential future incidents.

The Cabinet Office will coordinate efforts to instil greater clarity around responsibilities and accountability for the resilience of the 999 system to a range of challenges. These include cyber attacks, natural disasters, a large number of calls and simultaneous incidents, ensuring that the system is robust and can respond effectively to a wide range of emergency scenarios in the future.

These improvements will be made by testing the government's 999 Strategic Incident Group, a cross-system incident reporting and response protocol, and will establish guidelines to help emergency services and the government communicate with the public during call system incidents. .

To further improve public awareness and preparedness, an intergovernmental communications plan will also be developed by the end of April, creating a central point of public advice for various scenarios involving potential interruptions to 999 calls and covering all four nations. from United Kingdom.

The review has been based on the evidence and experience of all relevant stakeholders, including emergency authorities, BT, ofcomgovernment departments, Decentralized Administrations and Local Resilience Forums.

All recommendations must be implemented by the end of April 2024.

Howard Watson, director of network and security at BT Group, said:

At BT Group we are very proud to support the national 999 service and recognize the critical importance our infrastructure plays. The level of service disruption on Sunday 25 June 2023 has never been seen before and we sincerely regret the distress caused.

While no technology is 100% resilient, we have built a highly robust network with multiple layers of protection to connect the public to blue light services in times of need. We take our responsibility to the emergency services and the public seriously, and on this occasion we fell short of our high standards for the 999 service.

As described in the government's post-incident review (PIR), we have implemented a comprehensive improvement plan to prevent this series of events from happening again. We are also committed to working with all 999 stakeholders to continue to improve end-to-end system resilience.

Chair of the 999/112 Liaison Committee and Deputy Chief Constable Catherine Akehurst said:

I welcome the findings of the review, which has put public safety at the forefront. Although this incident was extremely rare, it is essential that we learn the lessons from it, and the review's recommendations will further strengthen arrangements across the country. This includes coordination between all system partners (BT, emergency authorities across the country and government) to ensure the public can continue to access emergency services when they need it.

The UK Government will continue to work closely with BT and industry stakeholders to provide reliable access to UK emergency services. The recommendations detailed in the review will be monitored by senior government officials to ensure the continued resilience of the Public Emergency Call Service.

Notes to editors

Read the full review on the 999 system here.

Following the unprecedented failure of the 999 technical infrastructure last July, emergency authorities did not identify any confirmed cases of serious damage as a direct result of the incident.

BT launched a thorough investigation into the failure and published its report on July 29, 2023..

ofcomas an independent regulator of the communications sector, opened the technical investigation into BT's compliance with its regulatory obligations in relation to incident of June 29, 2023We hope this will be published in the coming months.

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