Response to Inspectorates' report on 'unavailability of 112'
Between 15:34 and 18:52 on 24 June 2019, a disruption of the KPN telephone network caused the emergency number 112 to become unavailable. The Inspectorate of Justice and Security, the Radiocommunications Agency Netherlands and the Inspectorate for Health and Youth Care have investigated the circumstances of the national disruption. Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus sent the Inspectorates' report along with the government's response to the recommendations therein to the Lower House of Parliament today, also on behalf of State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Mona Keijzer and acting Minister for Medical Care Martin van Rijn.
The Inspectorates found that the emergency services did their absolute utmost to remain accessible and available as well as to provide any required assistance during the disruption, for which the government has the highest esteem. Never before had the Netherlands faced a national disruption of the public telephone network, in which unique situation both the emergency number 112 and the general service number of the Dutch police 0900-8844 proved unavailable. At the same time as the national disruption of the KPN telephone network, KPN also suffered a failure within its 4G network and interruptions took place in handling messages from the Dutch public warning system NL-Alert. The scenarios had not anticipated such a combination of different disruptions. In the opinion of the Inspectorates, KPN had not sufficiently taken the impact of foreseen and unforeseen vulnerabilities into account. With regard to the vital 112 and telephone services, KPN had also failed to place enough emphasis on safeguarding the robustness of changes, while process discipline fell short of the mark on several accounts. Moreover, the Inspectorates concluded that the policy for 112 failure at the Ministry of Justice and Security was insufficiently specific, lacked cohesion and had not been implemented at all parties.
Meanwhile, the police's National Control Room (Landelijke Meldkamer Samenwerking, LMS) has incorporated this scenario into its operational road map. In the report, the Radiocommunications Agency Netherlands concludes that KPN has also taken several key measures to minimise the chance of repetition. However, the Agency also concedes that disruptions with such an impact cannot always be predicted or prevented. The LMS will therefore conduct a biannual continuity survey and implement thorough risk management along with all chain partners. In addition, the Control Room (Amendment) Act (Wijzigingswet meldkamers) adopted by the Lower House of Parliament on 4 February last improves opportunities for central management or adjustment of policy objectives. Whereas the previous control room system divided responsibility for the management and functioning of the regional control rooms between dozens of parties, including the security regions, the LMS is now tasked with managing all control rooms. The telecommunications sector is of vital importance to the domain of public order and safety as well as the health care sector. For this purpose, the government will continue to enter into consultations on the best way to follow up on the other recommendations.
According to the Inspectorate of Justice and Security, a further conclusion is that there was a lack of supervision at the Ministry of Justice and Security on communication during the disruption. It took the Ministry too long to start broadcasting a uniform national message containing information on the disruption as well as the recommendation that citizens report to police and fire stations in an emergency. Combined with the disruptions at KPN and the delays in the Dutch public warning system NL-Alert, citizens received no, excessive or contradictory information on the disruption and their perspectives for action during that day. As a result, Minister Grapperhaus is now discussing improvements to risk and emergency communication in supraregional as well as national emergencies with the Security Regions Council. The Minister believes that the security regions should be praised for the handling of emergency communication in their region on 24 June 2019, especially during the first hour of the disruption.
In the view of the Inspectorate for Health and Youth Care, not only did the emergency services strive to remain available during the disruption, but health care organisations also worked together closely to solve problems with a great deal of ingenuity. The health care organisations under investigation have sufficiently addressed the consequences of the telephone service disruption by using alternative means of telecommunication and deploying additional staff.