Malfunctions in the past few days with two separate communications companies caused separate lapses in citizens’ ability to contact 911 services — with Lewis County emergency management officials clarifying that the glitches have nothing to do with the 911 system.
On Sunday, a severed line cut out landline communication for citizens in the Lincoln Creek area of northern Lewis County and in the Rochester area. It took more than 24 hours for the line to be fixed by CenturyLink crews, said Emergency Management Director Steve Mansfield.
While Mansfield said he didn’t know how many people were without communication in that time, he said it was confined to a relatively small population. Officials were first notified of the problem by a citizen who called in to say he had no landline communication. Individuals were still able to contact 911 using their cellphones.
During such an incident, Mansfield said, dispatch will contact the first responder entities that service the affected area, alerting them that communication with citizens might be stilted.
Mansfield said it was explained to him that CenturyLink’s policy is not to send crews out during evening hours. Lewis County officials were first notified of the outage at 4:30 p.m., and a brief incident inquiry confirmed that the issue was with the phone company, and not with 911 communications. Services were back up by around 9 p.m. Monday, he said, saying he had believed that the process would have been a faster one.
“I know in the past they’ve been very receptive to us when something like this happens, and to our community, to get this fixed, so this is somewhat surprising to me that this would take so long for this to occur,” Mansfield said.
In a separate incident, AT&T released a statement that some cellular customers within their company were having trouble contacting 911. Similar situations have popped up in headlines across the U.S. in recent weeks.
“AT&T teams are engaged and working to fully isolate and resolve the issue. The specific cause of the service outage has not yet been determined. Due to this service outage, you may experience interruptions or degradation to Wireless 911 calls and or Wireless location information,” reads a statement from AT&T.
Mansfield said they were notified of the glitch at 3:35 a.m. Tuesday, and the issue was cleared up later that morning.
He said they wouldn’t know until after the fact if there were any actual emergency situations that suffered from a hindered response due to communication glitches.
“We live with a lot of technology in our world and people need to have action plans for when things don’t go their way and technology fails,” he said.
In the event of a 911 call not going through, call the dispatch business line at 360-740-1105.