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'Very major outage' shuts down 9-1-1 dispatch for 30 hours

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jun 28, 2018 at 2:18 PM

A train accident was the cause of a nearly 30-hour 9-1-1 outage which affected Huron County and six other counties. 

Huron County EMS’s 9-1-1 coordinator Tacy Bond said the “very major outage,” which originally was projected to last just 15 hours, started at 9 p.m. Tuesday and lasted until 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

“Basically what happened was, we found out in Marion where our main lines come in from, a railroad car struck two poles and basically ripped them out of ground. When they were ripped out it shattered the fiber optics,” Bond said. “They had to physically go in and basically splice all lines back together again.”

She added that the outage effected seven counties, including Huron County, and 30 dispatch centers.

The outage came exactly two months since the county’s last major outage.

“It was two months to the day; the last outage happened April 27 and lasted 10 to 12 hours,” she said. “This was obviously a bigger one. Generally this sort of thing happens, where a line gets cut about once a year. With that one (in April) Ohio Edison was setting poles and one of the poles clipped a line when it was going into the ground.”

Bond said when an outage takes place typically the EMA contacts Frontier, which then sets up the back-up business/administration lines, called roll overs, to pick up the 9-1-1 calls.

“The issue with that is the information we usually get with the call like the location and things won’t come through, it’ll be just like a regular call, you only get the person’s voice. It’s like when people call 9-1-1 and they think it didn’t go through, usually we can still get their location and know where they called from. That doesn’t happen with the outages. You (9-1-1 callers) have to make sure you say where you’re at and give all the important information first when you first call.”

The roll-overs act like a “safety back up” the dispatch rely on Bond said, however, with this outage, the damage was more severe and it took a few hours before the roll-overs could be used.

“Due to the damage done, we had trouble getting those up,” she said. “Once we got the roll-overs up and running, even though it was an inconvenience, it went smoothly.”

Bond attributed the successful handling of the situation to being able to get the word out quickly.

An alert was posted on the Norwalk Reflector website.

“Social media is nice because it goes out there and people can see it immediately,” she said.

“We also use Everbridge (a messaging service that sends emergency text messages to local residents). We notified about 12,000 people with Everbidge. The only thing with that is, I got called in at about 2:30 in the morning and we don’t want it to go out at 2:30 a.m. and wake people up and irritate them. It’s a fine line between letting people know in name of safety and annoying them. Of course you can’t make everybody happy.” 

Bond praised Frontier, saying even though the outage lasted “a really long time” and created “an inconvenience,” she said the telecommunications company was doing their best. 

“Last night when I talked to Frontier, they were really working hard,” she said. “They said everybody that was anybody was out there working on this thing.” 

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