People in Jersey put at 'life-threatening risk' when left without 999 service

Jersey's telecom operators are obligated by their licences to provide the emergency call service "at all times". Credit: PA Images

An outage, which meant people could not dial 999 put people's lives at risk at the start of the year, according to Jersey's competition watchdog.

Between January and April six incidents occurred when people were not able to connect with emergency services, whether making calls from mobiles or a fixed line.

The cause of most failures was JT's Call Handling Agent infrastructure. On two occasions this caused a complete outage where no one could call 999 and on the other four the States of Jersey Police had to step in and field emergency calls. These incidents affected all operators.

Separate issues relating to an interconnection link between JT and Sure led to a further problem for Sure customers. 

Jersey's telecom operators are obligated by their licences to provide the emergency call service "at all times". 

An investigation was launched which found the operators also did not notify the Authority of all the network issues that led to the failures. Some were identified at the time but only one incident was reported directly to the Authority, by Sure. Failure to notify the Authority of these types of outages is a breach of their licence conditions. 

Fortunately, no loss of life is known to have resulted as a consequence of any of the six incidents. It is nevertheless evident that the failures which led to their occurrence presented potential life-threatening risk to the public during the pandemic. We are taking significant enforcement measures and clarifying the standards expected to ensure maximum availability of 999 services in the future. 

Tim Ringsdore, CEO, the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority

As a result of the investigation, the Authority is setting out a number of actions required by operators to minimise the risk of reoccurrence and establishing reliable arrangements to support 999 calls in Jersey.

It will decide if any additional action and penalties, such as fines, will be issued at a later date. A further incident which resulted in the island-wide JT network outage on 12 July 2020, including the loss of the 999 service, is the subject of a separate investigation. 

In a statement JT CEO, Graeme Millar apologised on behalf of the company that the emergency call-handling service "hasn’t been up to standard this year." He also wants to reassure islanders the necessary steps have been taken to make sure the service meets requirements.

The work to fix our service has now been done by JT, in partnership with the JCRA, and will make sure that the island’s emergency call-handling is more resilient; that includes a system of making a specific test call every 30 minutes, and a new Code of Practice which will set out the exact requirements and expectations for all parties.

Graeme Millar, CEO, JT