Emergency and State and Local Law Enforcement Systems: Committee Questions Concerning Year 2000 Challenges

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-14.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States

GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Aixounting and Information
      Management Division


      July 14,1999

      The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
      The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd
      Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem
      United States Senate

      Subject:       Emergencv and State and Local Law Enforcement &stems:       Committee
                     Questions Concerninp Year 2000 Challenpes

      This letter provides answers to questions posed in response to our April 29,1999, testimony
      on the challenges facing emergency services and state and local law enforcement systems in
      addressing the Year 2000 computing problem. At the time we testified, there was limited
      information on the readiness status of either the 9-l-l system or of state and local law
      enforcement activities to conclude about either’s ability to meet the public safety and well-
      being needs of alI local communities during the transition to the year 2000. The questions and
      our responses follow.

      1. In your testimony, you say that only 18percent of the 4,300 9-l -1 call answering sites
         throughout the nation responded to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (ZENA.,
         survey, and that of those 800 or so respondents, only lepercent or a little over 100
         reported their systems YZK compliant. That is frightening! It means that most of the
         nation’s 9-l-l systems, i.e., over 4,000, are not compliant. And it does not raise our
         comfort level that, with a little over 8 months remaining before the date change, most
         assert that these complicated systems will be made compliant in time. Are these statistics
         as alarming as they appear? What assurances do we have that Americans will have
         uninterrupted 41-1 service after the century change? Can you offer any reasons first for
         the low survey response rate, and second for the dismal performance of this group? Do
         you agree that; in general, those with the best programs are more likely to respond to
         surveys and, ifso, are these statistics even more dismal than they appear?

         The general lack of information increased our concern about which-if any-critical
         emergency communications and law enforcement systems may not be compliant in time.
         However, we tes%fied that successfully completing a 9-1-l call next January l-and taking
         full advantage of all the features of enhanced 9-l-l service-is dependent on two major
         factors for which some good information is available. First, the ability of the public
         switched telecommunications network to transmit the call and, second, the ability of the
         Public Safety Answering Points (PsAps) to process the call.

                            GAO/AIMD-99247R Emergency/State and Local Law Enforcement Y2K

   With respect to the public switched network, th& Telco Year 2000 Forum on Intra-
   Network Interoperability Testing, which is made up of local exchange carriers
   representing 90 percent of all access lines in the nation, recently conducted tests to
   determine whether the public switched network could carry calls in a Year 2000
   environment. The tests were performed on 54 different configurations of central office
   equipment that included a majority of the network components used in North America.
   Only six Year 2000 problems were identified by the Telco Year 2000 Forum in over 1,900
   test cases on these configurations, which involved 80 products from 20 different vendors.
   Assuming these tests were carried out effectively, their results provide some confidence
   that, if remediated effectively, the public switched network should continue to function
   into the new millenium with no major service interruptions caused by Year 2000 dates.
   However, these tests did not focus specifically on 9-l-l services and, as such, they did not
   test numerous “back end” systems that a PSAP might use, such as computer-aided
   dispatch systems, call logging systems, caU recorders, and radios. PSAP operators are
   responsible for ensuring that these systems operate and interoperate properly after the
   date change.

   The status of the ability of PSAP efforts to ensure that they can effectively process 9-l-l
   calls has become more clear since our testimony. The Network Reliability and
   Interoperability Council (NRIC) reports that major local telephone companies have taken
   action to ensure that PSAP systems they provide to their customers have been
   remediated. And since the time of our testimony, F’EMA and the Department of Justice
   have worked to increase the response rate to the public safe@ organization Year 2000
   readiness survey conducted by FEMA and the National Emergency Number Association.
   As of June 30,1999, of the over 2,200 sites responding, 37 percent reported that they were
   ready for the Year 2000. Another 55 percent of those responding reported they would be
   Year 2000 compliant in time for the millennium.

   We have no information regarding FE&IA’s initial poor response rate.

2. We understand that contingency planning for most emergency service providers will
   cor~ist of direct answering and dissemination of 91-l calls, i.e., without today’s level of
   automation. It strikes me that many organizations may not have the manpower or
   corporate knowledge to field calls “the old way.” Do you think this is a viable option for
   contingencyplanuing? Ifnot, what concerns would you have with this type of
   contingencyplan, and cau you suggest an alternative?

    The business continuity and contingency planning process focuses on reducing the risk of
    Year 200~induced business failures and on safeguarding an organization’s ability to
    produce a minimum acceptable level of services in the event of failures of mission-critical
    information systems. Falling back to disseminating 9-l-l calls without today’s level of
    automation is a viable contingency plan, to which there is no feasible alternative, for the
    three 9-l-l sites that we visited. Nevertheless, implementing contingency plans is not
    risk-free and requires careful preparation to ensure that core business processes are
    adequately supported. This preparation includes thoroughly testing the contingency
    plans, dedicating required resources to implement the plans, and training staff to fulfill
    their roles during contingency operations.

Page 2                 GAO/AIMD-99-247R Emergency/State and Local Law Enforcement Y2K

     During our tours of 9-l-l sites located in Arlington County and Fairfax County, Virginia,
     we were told that both sites use manual procedures when their computer assisted
     dispatch systems are not operating (such as during periods of scheduled maintenance or
     during unforeseen system outages). Similarly, during a more recent tour of the District of
     Columbia’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services 9-l-l site, we were told that the District
     of Columbia can operate using manual dispatching procedures and has recently practiced
     doing so. All three organizations recognize that operating without computer assistance
     lengthens service delivery times, but believe that performance remains within acceptable

3. You indicate in your testimony tbat outreach &on3 byJustice have been targeted to
   raising awareness only, and have been largely ad hoc in nature. Did your review uncover
   any particular reasons why Justice’s outreach efforts to the over 17,000 law enforcement
   organizations in this country have been so lacking? What if anything in your opinion
   should Justice do to step up its outreach activities?

     The department’s outreach activities have been ad hoc in large part because Justice lacks
     a formal outreach program with stated goals and defined strategies for proactively
     reaching out to state and local law enforcement entities. With the exception of the
     Bureau of Prisons, Justice’s component bureaus also lack formal outreach programs with
     goals and strategies. As discussed further in the following question, the FBI has taken
     actions recently to assess the capability of states to receive and send information through
     the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

     Since many of Justice’s components have the same law enforcement counterparts at the
     state and local level, the department’s efforts could be more effective if the department
     centrally defined and implemented a clear strategy, with measurable goals, objectives,
     and time frames, and targeted activities that were assigned to specific bureaus and were
     aimed at expediting the Year 2009 efforts of late starters.

4. As you indicate in your testimony, little is known about the status of state and local law
   enforcement agencies because no assessment surveys have been conducted. We
   understand that the law enforcement working group of the President’sY2K Council now
   plans to conduct such a survey. what recommendations would you make to maximize
   the timeliness and value of this survey? Considering that there is little over 8 months
   remaining until January 1, 2000, what should be done with the results of this survey?
   Would a survey even do any good at this late date?

     According to the Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Information Resources
     Management, the FBI recently completed a survey of the 50 states to assess their
     readiness to send and receive transactions with NCIC 2000 (the NCIC replacement
     system) and is in the process of summarizing the results. The FBI could use this
     information to target those state and local law enforcement agencies most at risk of not
     being Year 2000 compliant and develop appropriate strategies and contingency plans to
     respond to the risks.

5.   What do you believe are the biggest problems facing the emergency setices sector at this

Page 3                 GAO/AIMD99247R Emergency/State and Local Law Enforcement Y2K

     At a nationwide series of workshops for state and local emergency services managers
     sponsored by F’EMA, the main issues raised by participants were (1) developing and
     disseminating public information, (2) successfully completing contingency plans and Year
     200Orelated tests and exercises, (3) obtaining resources to address the Year 2000
     problem, and (4) addressing concerns about human services including medical care,
     needs of special populations, and provisions for food and shelter.

6. Considering the seern@y low level of preparedness in the emergency services sector,
   particularly with Y2K compliance of complicated 9-l-l systems, do you thinkit is likely
   that aU of these systems can be repaired on time?

     Since we have not examin ed the remediation plans for the 9-l-l systems in the sector, we
     are not in a position to assess the likelihood of their being ready on time. However, we
     recently collected data on the Year 2000 preparations underway in the nation’s 21 most
     populous cities. Thirteen of the cities reported that their 9-l-l systems are already Year
     2000 compliant. Another five cities reported that their systems will be compliant by the
     end of September 1999. Two cities did not expect their 9-l-l systems to be compliant
     until the fourth quarter of 1999. One city does not own or operate a 9-l-l system.

     Additionally, based on the results of F’EMA and Justice survey work, the number of
     PSAPs reported to be compliant has increased, as well as the number of PSAPs indicating
     that they will be ready for the Year 2000.

7.   We understand that you recently toured one of the 9-l-l centers in the area Can you tell
     us about that?

     On April 21, we visited the Emergency Communications Center @ICC) in Arlington
     County, Virginia. Arlington County leases its 9-l-l systems from Bell Atlantic, which has
     stated that the leased equipment is Year 2000 compliant. This equipment includes a call
     recording system, a computer-aided dispatch system, and a radio communications

     Arlington County’s ECC is served by eight 9-l-l communication lines provided by Bell
     Atlantic. To minimize the likelihood of outages due to communication disruptions (such
     as severed cables), the trunks do not all come to the ECC from a single central office; four
     trunks come from one central office and four trunks come from another. In the
     aggregate, these trunks represent the ECC’s communications capacity to accommodate
     peak traffic loads. Arlington County also operates a scaled-down ECC located at an
     alternate location that fimctions as a back up in the event of a disaster at the primary
     ECC. In the event of primary site failure, staff would literally flip a switch to reroute calls
     to the alternate site.

     The ECC Administrator described the 9l-l-call process for a hypothetical emergency call
     placed from Centreville, Virginia. The call would not be directly routed to the emergency
     response provider, but would instead travel to a service point operated by the local
     telephone company (in this example, operated by Bell Atlantic) located in either
     Baltimore, MD, or Philadelphia, PA At this service point, a lookup is done in an
     Automatic Location Information (AU) database.

Page 4                   GAO/AIMD-99-247R Emergency/State and Local Law Enforcement Y2K

    The call is then routed from the ALI lookup to the PSAP responsible for dispatching an
    emergency response unit to the caller’s location; this is referred to as “selective routing.”
    At the PSAP, an operator’s computer screen displays the following information: calling
    party address, community, state, etc. The operator verbally verifies the caller’s address.
    If the address information is correct, the problem is coded, notes may be added, and an
    appropriate response is dispatched. If the information is not correct, the operator
    overrides the ALI information, inserts the correct problem location, codes the problem,
    and dispatches the appropriate response.

    Arlington County has completed its Year 2000 assessment of the systems in use in its ECC
    and spent $60,000 to remediate noncompliant software used in its touch-screen radio
    consoles. A contingency plan is in place and manua.l backup procedures are used in the
    event of computer-aided dispatch system failures.

    On April 27, we visited the Fairfax County Public Safety Communications Center in
    Annandale, Virginia Fairfax County has been working on the Year 2000 issue in
    conjunction with its PSAP vendor for about 18 months. On April 15,1999, Fairfax County
    conducted a Year 2000 test of its PSAP system. The test was run for 2 hours during an off-
    peak period, during which time all system clocks were advanced. Based on the
    successful results of that test, Fairfax County officials expressed confidence that their
    PSAP systems are ready for the year 2000. However, in the event of a service disruption,
    PSAP stafT would revert to the use of manual processes to deliver service to the public.

We based our answers to these questions on interviews with Department of Justice and
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, analyses of 9-l-l survey data, and our visits
to PUPS in Virginia and the District of Columbia We conducted this work from April
through July 1999 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
did not verify reported data or status information.

If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact me or Ron Hess, Assistant
Director, at (202) 512-6240. Other key contributors to this report include Kevin Conway,
Debbie Davis, and Linda Lambert.

Jack L. Brock, Jr.
Director, Governmentwide and Defense
 Information Systems


Page 5                GAO/AIMD-99-247R Emergency/State and Local Law Enforcement Y2K
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