08 August 2017
- 74 emergency calls failed after telephone exchange flooded
Ofcom has today fined KCOM £900,000, after uncovering a serious weakness in the telecoms company’s emergency-call service.
An Ofcom investigation found that KCOM, which operates the main telephone and broadband network in Kingston upon Hull, broke an important rule designed to ensure everyone can contact the emergency services at all times.1 This is crucial to public health and safety.
Ofcom expects telephone companies’ emergency-call services to be resilient. They should ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that emergency calls can be connected at all times, even in challenging circumstances.
What went wrong
On 28 December 2015, KCOM notified Ofcom that its emergency-call service for the Hull area had failed for around a four-hour period.2
KCOM attributed this failure to flooding at one of BT’s telephone exchanges in York, in the wake of Storm Eva.3 As a result, 74 attempted calls to 999 or 112 from 34 different numbers failed to connect during this period.4
Ofcom’s investigation found that all emergency calls from customers in the Hull area relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York, which was a single point of failure in KCOM’s emergency-call routing.
To meet Ofcom rules, KCOM should have been able automatically to divert emergency calls via back-up routes. While our investigation found that KCOM did have back-up routes in place, it later became clear that these also relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York.5
To resolve the incident and address the weakness in its emergency-call routing, KCOM created an alternative route to carry emergency-call traffic that bypassed the flooded telephone exchange in York. It did so within two hours of identifying the problem.
For illustrative purposes only
Ofcom’s decision and financial penalty
We found that KCOM breached the requirement to ensure uninterrupted access to the emergency services, and have today imposed a penalty of £900,000. The fine reflects the seriousness of this breach, and its impact on public health and safety.
The fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.
Ofcom expects all providers to continue to satisfy themselves that their networks have no avoidable single points of failure in the routing of emergency call traffic.
Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Enforcement and Investigations Director, said:
“Ofcom rules mean that people must be able to call the emergency services around the clock.
“Any failure to connect 999 calls is extremely serious. Today's fine serves as a clear warning to the telecoms industry that it must prioritise access to the emergency services, no matter what the circumstances.”