Massachusetts 911 outage caused by firewall software, investigation finds

An investigation into Tuesday's two-hour 911 outage in Massachusetts found it was caused by public safety's firewall software.
smartphone dialing 911
(Getty Images)

After an investigation into Tuesday’s 911 outage in Massachusetts, officials found that it was caused by firewall software used by the Massachusetts State 911 Department and its 911 vendor meant to protect the system from cyberattacks.

The outage, which lasted from 1:15 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to a statement about the investigation released by the State 911 Department and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security on Wednesday, prevented calls from getting to the 911 dispatch centers. While the preliminary investigation revealed the cause was the firewall, the exact reason the firewall stopped calls from reaching dispatch centers remains under review, according to the announcement.

Once the state’s 911 department became aware of the issue, a statewide emergency alert was issued that told residents to instead call the business line of the public safety agency, according to a screenshot posted by the Associated Press. The 911 department also addressed the technical issue with Comtech, the statement said, and local law enforcement was alerted to the issue through a statewide broadcast network.

While some calls were not able to get through to the dispatch centers, the system allowed the centers to identify the phone number of callers and return those calls, the statement said. Additionally, the department said it has not received any reports of emergencies impacted during the interruption.


“The Massachusetts State 911 Department is deeply committed to providing reliable, state-of-the-art 911 services to all Massachusetts residents and visitors in an emergency. The Department will take all necessary steps to prevent a future occurrence,” Frank Pozniak, executive director of the State 911 Department, said in the statement. “We are grateful to everyone for their patience and cooperation during the outage.”

According to the statement, a full review of the outage will continue and Comtech has advised State 911 that it’s applied a technical solution to ensure similar outages don’t happen again.

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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