Between 4 p.m. and around 9 p.m. on Monday, the Dutch emergency number 112 was unavailable due to a nationwide outage at telecom company KPN. How did the north respond to the downtime, and how could something like this happen in the first place?
The outage was hard to miss: most people across the country received five emergency alerts that 112 was unreachable in case of emergency. The last message came in around 9:30 on Monday night after a five-hour outage. While 112 was down, several temporary emergency numbers were available in different regions, and local emergency services relied on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter for citizens to report emergencies.
In the north
In the north, there was a WhatsApp emergency line available for calls, and police officers were dispatched into neighbourhoods for quicker response times. The Groninger Internet Courant reports that agents and ambulance crews were present on the streets in Groningen for citizens to approach them in person in case of emergency.
In Friesland, the Leeuwarder Courant writes that volunteer firefighters were notified by pagers to come to the fire departments in order to have a shorter response time if a fire broke out. Citizens were also advised to come to the fire departments in person if there were any accidents or incidents: during the down time, there were at least two car crashes which the fire fighters responded to after being notified via a special temporary emergency line.
A spokesperson for the Safety Region Drenthe (VRD) told RTV Drenthe that they had never experienced such a long outage in the 12 years they had been working in the job. Like most regional emergency response units, VRD already had a back-up plan at the ready in case of such an outage, which included bringing in up to 1,000 fire fighters to man the stations for citizens to report to them.
According to KPN, which is one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the Netherlands with more than five million subscribers, the down time is not believed to be the result of a hack. Dutch ministers were reportedly briefed on the network outage, and NOS reports that the directors of the company are set to meet with Justice and Safety minister Ferd Grapperhaus on Tuesday.
It was announced on Tuesday morning that KPN’s current head, Maximo Ibarra, would be stepping down as CEO as of September, but the timing of the announcement reportedly had no connection to the emergency number outage.