A recent communications problem in Minnesota highlights the need for municipalities to engage in continuity of operations planning.

Minnesota state government experiences three-hour call center interruption

While voice over internet protocol (VoIP) systems have been lauded for their ability to help businesses increase the quality of their call centers and buoy their bottom lines, just as with traditional phones, these high-tech services can sometimes experience technical difficulties.

On January 19, the Minnesota state government experienced three hours of issues that affected its communications ability. From 12:48 p.m. to 1:27 p.m., local news sources indicate that the state telephone system crashed, leaving employees unable to make or receive calls from residents.

Following the discovery of the problem, state officials shut down the phone system to determine the cause of the communications outage. By 1:27 p.m. workers could reportedly make calls, and by 3:30 p.m. employees were able to once again receive calls from the public.

"Twenty-thousands phones out is obviously a very serious problem," Cathy de Moll, a spokeswoman with the state's Office of Enterprise Technology, its central information technology organization, said in a statement.

The problem impacted state agencies as well as the governor's office, according to Minneapolis-St.Paul news source, the Star Tribune.

While a relatively small problem when compared to a natural disaster, the issue highlights the need for municipalities to invest in services that can help them ensure that their continuity of operations planning is up-to-date in the event of a similar communications disruption.

For example, by speaking with a continuity of operations specialist that can help city or town officials best prepare the essential documents they need for dealing with this type of continuity issue, they can ensure residents that they have the backup tools they require to field important questions while experiencing phone system issues.