After the giant “bug” of emergency numbers, the system called into question

Four people are said to have died as a result of the chaos caused, during the night from Wednesday to Thursday, by an outage of the Orange network. Investigations are open.

Unexpected, serious and unprecedented. The almost general paralysis of emergency calls that affected the entire country overnight from Wednesday to Thursday had dramatic consequences. Speaking of malfunctions “serious and unacceptable», the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin – forced to return to France while accompanying the Prime Minister in Tunisia – indeed signaled that this massive blackout had caused the death of three people.

By failing to reach the 15 which was blocked, just like the 17, 18 and 112, a 63-year-old man, victim of a cardiovascular accident, thus succumbed in Morbihan. Two other people died in Reunion. A fourth victim, a 28-month-old child, was identified Thursday evening by the prefecture of Vendée. Traveling in the Lot, Emmanuel Macron, expressed his concern about this unprecedented bug.

Summoned in the morning by Gerald Darmanin, Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, whose company is responsible for routing these emergency calls, delivered his first explanations. This failure would, according to him, be linked to “software failure in critical network equipment», As he declared to the TF1 news of 13 hours, excluding any computer attack.

Failure of emergency numbers: “An unacceptable and unprecedented event” according to Cédric O – Watch on Figaro Live

While the operator’s teams mobilized throughout the day to overcome these dysfunctions, the emergency services attempted to identify any problems encountered by other patients. For several hours, and during a crisis meeting, all the Samu of France worked together to take stock of this night of chaos, the first worrying signs of which had appeared at the end of Wednesday afternoon. Calls were unsuccessful, they had to be repeated to sometimes have an interlocutor online.

But it was at the time of the peak of activities, between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., that the failures multiplied, “Nevertheless affecting the regions in various ways”, indicates Agnès Ricard-Hibon, the spokesperson for the French society of emergency medicine. Thus, the North has, according to her, been particularly concerned. According to her, too, the worst has been avoided. “With the Covid crisis, we were introduced to communication between emergency services, firefighters, law enforcement and Samu», Says the spokesperson.

A quick-start mutual aid system was then set up between these platforms to relay calls blocked from some and passing through to others. Very quickly too, ten-digit alternative numbers were proposed and distributed via hospitals, town halls, prefectures and social networks. This reactivity has, according to Agnès Ricard-Hibon, made it possible not to leave a large part of the population without a solution. “In Île-de-France, it thus appears that the emergency response vehicles have not experienced a particular drop in activity, which is rather a good sign”, adds the manager.

Nevertheless, the Samu continued their investigations all day Thursday to find out if this failure could have caused other tragedies, in addition to those announced by Beauvau. At the end of the afternoon, these emergency services had no back-up allowing them to fear other dramatic situations. “But we have to be vigilant and the investigations will continue because we cannot exclude the cases of isolated people who we have not detected and who could not have reached the help.», Adds Agnès Ricard-Hibon.

As for the deaths linked, it seems, to the blackout, they will give rise to various inquiries. But, already, in Morbihan, the prefecture has delivered the first details about the 63-year-old patient, who died in the emergency department of the Vannes hospital. “According to the first elements communicated by the family, this person had been taken by a relative to the hospital center, in view of the technical difficulties encountered in calling the emergency services”, indicated the prefecture.

While an administrative investigation was requested by the Regional Health Agency (ARS), Philippe Couturier, the director of the Center hospitalier Bretagne-Atlantique announced, for his part, his intention to appeal to justice. “I wish to seize the public prosecutor so that there is a judicial investigation”, he said early Thursday afternoon. A little later, the Vannes public prosecutor’s office announced the opening of an investigation. In Reunion, investigations will also be carried out “To determine if the difficulties in reaching the emergency services had an effect on the quality of the care” of the two deceased, said the prefect. Finally, in Vendée, “The death of a young child of a year and a half was noted and deplored this morning”, said Prefect Benoît Brocard, speaking of a “drama” occurred against the background of the failure of emergency numbers.

Launch of an audit

“These investigations which will start will be long, warns Me Frédéric Bibal, specialist in this type of business and personal injury. In these cases, everything is based on the notion of loss of opportunity. We must prove that the person who is already in a worrying situation has died because the emergency services did not intervene. “” A whole expert work will be carried out to establish the link between the death and the breakdown “, complete Me Sylvie Topaloff, medical risk specialist.

Far from being fully recovered, contrary to what the CEO of Orange said during the day, the situation, late Thursday afternoon, still worried the authorities. Here and there, malfunctions were still noted despite initial repairs. Above all, the new peak of activities starting in the evening was going to be decisive in knowing if a new bug was going to occur or not. At 6 p.m., a new crisis meeting was held at the Ministry of the Interior and a new item is scheduled for Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. to take stock of the night.

This unprecedented failure, which will give rise to an audit launched by the government, revives the debates on the organization of relief. “The 112 resisted better than the other emergency numbers”, indicates Colonel Grégory Allione who chairs the National Federation of firefighters of France (FNSPF). An observation that is not innocent. He has always campaigned for this single number and the regrouping, in the same departmental centers, of all these emergency services. However, for Agnès Ricard-Hibon, the organization as it is today should not be called into question. “Putting all the eggs in one basket would make us totally vulnerable”, she said, and this crisis has just made it “A brilliant demonstration”.


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