The 111 operator service is up and functioning normally.
However, some people have experienced, and will still be experiencing, issues calling 111 if they are in the Kaikoura or North Canterbury area, as communications in and out of some communities have been severely impacted by the earthquakes. As some local communications are still working, people may be able to contact local emergency services directly. Spark is sending engineers into affected local areas to restore any impacted 111 connectivity as soon as possible.
For a period of approximately 30 minutes immediately following this morning’s first earthquake at 12.05am, the 111 operator service was unavailable. This was because the call centre that answers and re-directs 111 calls, based in Featherston Street Wellington, was damaged by the earthquake and staff had to be evacuated immediately.
The normal procedure when the 111 call-centre is affected by a natural disaster is to re-route 111 calls directly to each of the emergency services, while the back-up 111 call-centre, in this case in Porirua, is activated.
The team making the switchover procedure during the quake were impeded by falling ceiling tiles and air conditioning equipment, which landed on the very desk being used to make the switch. While staff believed they had completed the procedure, it became apparent after they had urgently left the building that the procedure had not worked properly.
At this point, a secondary contingency procedure was invoked, which involved a remote switchover of the service, managed from the Network Operating Centre in Hamilton. This process was implemented and 111 service was then restored with emergency services able to field 111 calls directly from that point.
Once the 111 operator team were relocated to the emergency back-up site in Porirua, calls were able to be rerouted back to the 111 call-centre from 7.50am.
The 111 operator team has been working through the night with relevant emergency services to minimise any impact to the public. We would like to apologise for the 111 service outage, and for any distress this may have caused members of the public trying to reach emergency services during that time.