Failures over 999 calls could lead to fines

THE 999 and 112 phone numbers for calling the emergency services failed to work six times this year – creating what regulators have described as ‘a potential life-threatening risk to the public’.

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Operators JT and Sure have been strongly criticised by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority for the failures between January and April, and for the fact that only one of the incidents was reported to them directly. The firms could face penalties such as fines as a result.

The investigation did not address another incident on 12 July, when there was an Islandwide outage of the JT network, including the loss of the 999 service. A separate investigation is being held into it.

The investigation into the failures between January and April found that they had been caused by JT’s call-handling agent infrastructure. Twice it caused a complete outage where no one could call 999, and on the other four occasions the States police had to step in to field emergency calls. The failures lasted for between two hours and 12 days, although the police stepped in to provide cover for much of these times.

Tim Ringsdore, the authority’s chief executive, said: ‘Everyone who lives in or visits Jersey relies on the 999/112 services being available if they need to get help in an emergency. These failures fell far short of the required standard.’

He added: ‘Fortunately no loss of life is known to have resulted as a consequence of any of the six incidents that were the subject of this investigation.

‘It is nevertheless evident that the failures which led to their occurrence presented potential life-threatening risk to the public during the pandemic.’

The regulators are urging firms to sign up to a new code of practice. It would raise the standard of availability of 999 services in Jersey, to bring them into line with the UK and international standards.

And it would ensure that operators work together to establish ‘reliable and robust arrangements’ for 999 calls in Jersey.

Mr Ringsdore added: ‘The authority will decide if any further action and penalties, such as fines, are required at a later date.’

Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said: ‘These failures presented a significant threat to the integrity of our emergency services and the health and safety of Islanders. The swift response by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority and conduct of the investigation is welcomed.’

JT’s chief executive, Graeme Millar, apologised for the failings and said: ‘It is a service we have successfully delivered in Jersey for nearly a century, but at times around April this year it fell below the level we expect.

‘The JCRA’s investigation has been a useful process to establish exactly why that was, and to help to put it right both on the part of JT and the other operators – something which has now been done.’ He added: ‘I would like to reassure Islanders that the necessary steps have all been taken to make sure the 999 service meets the standards they rightly have come to expect.’

Graham Hughes, chief executive of Sure in Jersey, apologised and said: ‘As a result of this incident we reviewed our procedures and made immediate changes to ensure the handover process is smooth and reliable in future. We will continue to work with the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority, the Justice and Home Affairs Department and JT to address the issues identified in today’s final decision.’

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