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A preventable coding error knocked out 911 service for millions

For hours on an April day this year, 6,600 emergency calls from people in seven states didn’t reach responders. The 911 outage affected 11 million people; in Washington state, every single person was affected. And in a new report investigating the causes of the outage, the FCC found this: “It could have been prevented. But it was not.”

According to the report, the outage was caused by a simple coding error. A Colorado-based company, Intrado, Inc., which many service providers rely on for 911 infrastructure services, failed to properly route calls to emergency responders because of a bug in its software. Essentially, the coding error caused the system to stop giving unique IDs to 911 callers, and instead began counting them, one after…

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