The early morning hours of Thursday saw a disruption in the 911 emergency call service in Washington and in spots in Oregon. The problem began at 1:30 AM with the first connection issues starting in a dispatch center in Sheridan, Oregon. What began as a localized issue quickly spread across much of the Northwest.
According to emergency officials, the service failure was caused by an issue with CenturyLink, a telecommunications corporation. A spokesperson for CenturyLink was reported by the Associated Press as saying that it was still unclear what caused the outage. According to an AP report for ABC News, an investigation will begin to find the cause of the problem.
The article reported that Zimmer as saying “no 911 outages is good” but that if it had to happen “I guess overnight was a good time.” Although, according to the article, 911 calls happen less frequently in the night but are often “the most critical calls.” Zimmer and Wendy Freitag, Emergency Management spokesperson for Washington, said that as of 8 AM service was fully restored in Washington and there had been no reports of people who suffered emergencies and were unable to get help because of the service disruption.
Social networking users shared stories about the failure. On Facebook, Westport and Grayland residents were sharing a MyNorthwest news article that had alternative emergency numbers. However, after service was restored the link directed to a different article about the service restoration.
Twitter users tweeted about the confusion over alternative numbers to use in the case of an emergency. According to MyNorthwest.com, the problem was more pronounced for land line users, but few people seemed aware that cell phones calls were more likely to get through to a 911 operator.
Several Washington and Oregon residents tweeted that they had received emails notifying them of the outage. It is unclear what, if any, attempts were made to notify travelers of the issue. State notification boards along highways were displaying alternative numbers in the case of an emergency during the outage.
Diana Rodriquez, writer at Everyday Health, advises to plan ahead for emergencies when traveling domestically. This would include having a list of emergency numbers for a planned destination and to monitor news reports while traveling.