Islanders were unable to make 999 calls in Jersey on six separate occasions between January and April this year.
An investigation by JCRA, the island's communications regulator, has found that JT and Sure failed to manage and provide the public emergency call service for their customers, and failed to notify them of all the network issues that led to these failures.
The six incidents affected mobiles and landlines. Two of them were complete outages where no-one could call, with the police having to step in on the other four occasions to field emergency calls.
The regulator said most of them originated at JT's call centre.
Only one of the six incidents was directly reported to the JCRA. Failing to report the failures is a breach of the operator's licence conditions.
The Authority is now:
- Ordering operators to carry out 'specific actions' to minimise the chance of it happening again. JT has already started that process.
- Raising the standard of availability of 999 services in Jersey and tightening the link to relevant international standards for service resilience.
- Setting out a clear expectation that operators should work together to establish reliable and robust arrangements in supporting 999 calls in Jersey.
"Everyone who lives on, 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, or what we expect of Jersey’s licensed operators. Whilst a number of the problems were caused by JT’s Call Handling Agent, Sure and other licensed operators also failed to meet their obligations in relation to the 999 service.”
"This is an issue we are taking very seriously. JT and Sure have acknowledged the emergency call service they are bound to provide under the terms of their licences has fallen short of what is required. 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 a potentially 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.
"All operators have taken or will be taking steps to address the issues and are working with us to bring this investigation to a swift conclusion. We are pleased that there are currently no problems with Jersey’s 999 service, and we have no reason to expect the problems to recur. If they do, we expect to take further swift and tough action. We call on all operators to work together to adopt a new Code of Practice and drive lasting improvements to ensure that Islanders and visitors are protected." -Tim Ringsdore, JCRA Chief Executive.
Detailed guidance will also be given to all operators which govern access to emergency services.
The JCRA says it will decide at a later stage if further action or penalties, such as fines, should be handed down.
"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 and I am confident that the future stability of the 999 call network is now assured." -Constable Len Norman, Home Affairs Minister.
A separate is ongoing relating to the island-wide JT outage in July.
JT CEO Graeme Millar has apologised on behalf of the operator for the call-handling service 'not being up to standard this year'.
"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.
"I would like to thank the JCRA for that work, and also the States of Jersey Police who stepped in to help, following the established back-up processes.
JT's offices at Minden Place, where 999 calls are answered.
"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.
"I would like to echo the words of the Home Affairs Minister, and take this opportunity 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."
Mr Millar added that more than 100 islanders took up the company's offer of a free mobile phone to make sure they can contact emergency services.
JT made the offer after an island-wide landline and broadband outage in July.
Graham Hughes, Sure's Chief Executive in Jersey, also apologised for the outages:
"We’re sorry that there were issues with Sure’s handover process for emergency calls. The emergency services are vital to keeping our community safe, so maintaining their connectivity is of paramount importance to us.
Sure customers' calls were also affected.
"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."