Tech company admits to causing widespread 911 outage in three states

Outages were caused by multiple factors, including disruptions to a telecommunications company that provides 911 services in three of the states

Amelia Neath,Katie Hawkinson
Thursday 18 April 2024 12:10 BST
Lumen Technologies said a disruption to their network caused widespread 911 outages in three states
Lumen Technologies said a disruption to their network caused widespread 911 outages in three states (Getty)

A tech company on Thursday admitted that it was behind widespread 911 outages across three states.

Lumen Technologies, which provides state-wide services to Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota, told The Independent a disruption to their network caused a two-and-a-half-hour 911 outage on Wednesday evening. Multiple Texas cities also reported outages around the same time, but Lumen Technologies does not service the state and the exact cause of their outages is unclear.

Police departments in the affected states all reiterated similar issues that 911 calls appeared to be down on cellular carriers and in some areas, on landlines, but texts to the emergency number were still operational in many areas.

The outages came after a third party installed a light pole that disrupted the network of Lumen Technologies, according to Mark Molzen, global issues direction for Lumen Technologies.

“Our techs identified the issue and worked hard to fix it as quickly as possible,” Mr Molzen told The Independent.

Meanwhile, unrelated 911 outages were reported in multiple Texas cities on Wednesday evening.

The Del Rio, Texas Police Department in Texas told The Independent that an outage with carrier T-Mobile meant users could not call 911 on their cell phones on Wednesday evening. However, the city’s 911 services remained completely operational, according to Juan Hernandez, communication supervisor for the department.

The department told impacted residents to instead use a landline to contact emergency services.

The Independent has contacted T-Mobile for comment.

Nearing the other side of Texas from Del Rio in the southwest, the Kilgore Police Department also reported 911 outages. In that case, the department said the 911 system “has been intermittently down.” It is yet unclear what caused their outage.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said that throughout the outage, citizens could reach 911 by text in most locations. If this method was not working, they could still call the non-emergency lines of their local police or county sheriff’s offices, the department said.

Authorities in Sioux Falls also announced they were experiencing similar issues with their 911 services after the Lumen Technologies disruption appeared to cause a “statewide” 911 outage in South Dakota.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also acknowledged that 911 services were down and said that if someone called the emergency number on their mobile device, police would be able to see their mobile number and would call back straight away.

They warned citizens not to try and call 911 in order to “test” the service, so the number can still be left open for emergencies.

Testing the service became an issue as the system went down on Wednesday night for other agencies too, such as the Rapid City Police Department in South Dakota, which said one of their dispatchers became “inundated” with calls from residents who were trying to see if the system was working.

“Each 911 attempt is getting a call-back from dispatch, however the workload generated from unnecessary calls is hampering their efforts to get appropriate resources where they need to go,” they wrote in a Facebook update, emphasising that the service is still only for emergencies.

The LVMPD added that calls from landlines were not working and their non-emergency number was also being impacted, but texting 911, like in other states, was still available.

Emergency services throughout southern Nevada, such as in other cities within Clark County, had also been impacted.

Authorities in Nebraska, such as the Dundy County Sheriff’s Office, also reported that their 911 services were down, saying that “callers will receive a busy signal when dialling 911”, and telling citizens to call their administrative line or to text 911 instead.

While some authorities, like LVMPD, reported that 911 services were not working via landline, other areas, like Chase County in Nebraska, stated that landlines could still get through.

The Chase County Sheriff’s Office also added that 911 was down “for all cellular carriers except T-Mobile”.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told The Independent that their Office of Emergency Medical Services is monitoring the issue.

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