Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Following AT&T failure during recent flood, EBR pushing for new 911 system

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BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge Parish Communications District is looking to buy a new cloud-based 911 system that would allow dispatchers to work so long as they have an internet connection.

Talks of switching over to this system began in March of this year, but the discussions ramped up after flash flooding in May.

During the flood, Communications District Attorney Henry Olinde said an AT&T T-1 line failed. It caused an outage in Baton Rouge and forced all of the calls in East Baton Rouge to be rerouted to West Baton Rouge Parish for about 90 minutes. It happened during the height of the flood event, around 10:30 p.m..

"No 911 calls were lost, there's a backup plan that worked," Olinde said.

The situation is so rare, it's only happened one other time according to employees who had worked in the dispatch center for nearly 30 years. Normally, East Baton Rouge will assist other areas. During Hurricane Katrina, Baton Rouge handled all of New Orleans' 911 calls for help.

During May's flash flood, there were 3,100 calls made to 911 in East Baton Rouge Parish. On a typical day, there may be only about 1,000 calls.

"The future is what's called 'Cloud 911'... the 911 system does not come in on a T1 line, which is what happened during the flood," Olinde said. "It wasn't our failure in the flood. It was the line of the provider of service."

Although no calls went unanswered, the work of the employees answering 911 calls is the public's lifeline for help. The anxiety of not being able to answer some calls during the height of the flooding is fueling a new search for solutions.

"We will be one of a few communications districts our size with this when we get it," Olinde said.

RFP's are scheduled to go out in the next couple of months.

Leaders in Baton Rouge said they asked for assurances from AT&T that this would not happen again. We reached out to AT&T about the failure. A spokesman said they were researching the issue.


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