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Officials seek root of 911 outage in Scott

April 12th, 2014 12:19 am by Wes Bunch

Officials seek root of 911 outage in Scott

GATE CITY — Public safety officials in Scott County are searching for answers to a problem that caused a nearly half-hour long outage of 911 service early Friday.

Scott County E-911 Director Janice "Tutti" Jennings said the outage only affected central dispatch's main emergency line, as well as the automatic rerouting of those calls to Washington County, Va., E-911. Washington County's 911 line was also reportedly out of service during the same time period.

"I got the call from dispatch around 1:45 (Friday morning) saying that our 911 line was out," Jennings said. "We were made aware of the problem when the magistrate notified us, then we started doing test calls and got a recording that the number had been changed or connected."

Jennings said attempts to reroute 911 calls through central dispatch's administrative line were unsuccessful.

The outage lasted about 30 minutes before the 911 line was restored. Jennings said she does not believe the outage impacted any emergency calls.

"Everything is in full operation now," she said.

Members of all Scott County emergency response crews, and sheriff's office deputies, were dispatched to their various posts while service was down.

Although there was little in the way of information concerning the cause of the outage, Jennings said she believed the problem originated with E-911's phone service provider, CenturyLink.

As of Friday evening, Jennings said Scott County E-911 still had not heard from CenturyLink regarding the cause of the problem, or a potential solution.

A spokeswoman for CenturyLink said Friday night that the company would issue a statement Monday regarding the outage.

Jennings described the level of communication between her office and CenturyLink technicians during and after the outage as "aggravating."

Jennings said she plans to have meetings between her office, state emergency communications officials and CenturyLink representatives in the near future to assure the downtime does not occur again.

"We're definitely going to do a follow-up meeting with CenturyLink," Jennings said. "It could have been a problem that's no fault of anyone's, I don't know. But that's just it, I don't know, no one's called to tell us."

The service outage is the second to impact Scott County's E-911 service since December 2013.

On Dec. 13, 2013, Scott County E-911 lost all phone and Internet service for several hours after fiber optic line shattered while CenturyLink crews were troubleshooting a problem.

"This is the second occurrence since December," Jennings said. "We had meetings with CenturyLink to have this taken care of so the calls will reroute and the public will never have to hear a recording that says the number has been disconnected. That is something that should never happen."

Jennings said the Scott County Telephone Cooperative is in the process of installing two backup phone lines to E-911's Gate City office in the hopes of avoiding future outages.

"The Scott County Telephone Cooperative has offered us their complete support," Jennings said. "They're already getting those lines ready to run for backup, and they're doing it at no labor cost to us." 

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