Letter To The Editor: Clarifying Misrepresentations at Regional Dispatch Forum


To the Editor,

At the Select Board Public Safety Dispatch forum on May 5 a resident raised a question concerning a report that for a 24-hour period in the month of August 2021 NS Regional 911 was not accepting calls.  In a separate incident, this resident explained that a severe storm with multiple lightning strikes had “jammed phone lines” temporarily at the Regional Dispatch Center.  

I contacted Alyson Dell Isola, NS Regional 911 Center Director of PSAP Operations to clarify these two reports as I did not see any mention of either circumstance in the regional center’s 2020 or 2021 Annual Report. 

In response the Director clarified that the Regional Center phone lines never went down.  In terms of 911 calls, that is not how the 911 system works.  There is redundancy for 911 calls for every PSAP, as everyone has an alternate answering center and calls would be sent there if there were ever a systems issue.  So, there is no instance when a 911 call would not be answered.  In addition, the Regional Center is constructed and maintained to have redundant systems in place for all of our infrastructure including, but not limited to radios, business line phones internet, utility power, etc. 

It is interesting that these same two incidents were also raised at the public forum in Ipswich when they were debating onboarding and their feasibility study.  The Director of Operations thinks that the misconception that the Regional Center “was not taking calls for a 24-hour period” derived from information regarding a minor software issue that occurred in August of 2021. 

The Director reports, “a software upgrade to our IMC CAD affected one town’s police department’s ability to access reports via their RMS system.  There was no public safety concern.  It had nothing to do with 911 calls or systems, or radio traffic with officers.  It didn’t affect our Center’s CAD or ability to dispatch.  No disruption occurred to 911 calls or dispatch.  No incident is listed in our Annual Reports, because no incident occurred.”

The second statement regarding an incident where “phone lines were jammed” is also misleading.  In October of 2020 there was a severe storm system across the State and several regionals, PSAPs, and even State 911 posted social media notices reminding people that 911 should be called for emergencies and not to report utility issues (a lot of people were calling 911 to report power loss and needlessly filling up 911 lines).  During that storm, the Director explained that NS Regional Dispatch “not only handled their own calls, but also those of other centers for “rollover” if they were not able to receive all their calls at once.  As one of the State-run PSAPs, we still are an alternate routing path for many local PSAPs when they cannot handle their call load (again as a safety measure of the 911 system so that all 911 calls are always answered)”. 

This information is provided to clarify two misperceptions raised at our Public Safety Dispatch Forum on May 5.

Thank you,

Jeffrey Bodmer-Turner

MBTS Select Board Chair