Local News

Outage Affects 911 Service in Eastern N.C.

Posted July 9, 1998

— Some counties in the eastern part of North Carolina are experiencing problems with 9-1-1 service. A fiber-optic outage affected at least 20 counties at one point Friday morning.

Crews began working immediately to restore service, and repairs had been made in some areas by noon Friday. But, for about eight hours in the morning, Johnston County dispatchers were on edge hoping no serious emergencies would crop up.

During the early morning hours, area 9-1-1 dispatchers noticed they were having an emergency. Several systems in eastern North Carolina were down, forcing operators to reroute emergency calls to other lines such as the sheriff, police or fire departments.

They were able to answer incoming calls, but a problem in the Sprint phone line slowed down their system.

"We were not able to receive 9-1-1 calls with the standard information that comes with the call," said Al Gaskill, Johnston County's director of emergency communications. "For instance, the telephone number, and the address [of the caller]. We have been able to receive 9-1-1 calls. We've not missed a call, but we've had to do it the old fashioned way, just answering the phone and asking questions -- who are you, where are you?"

There were no major emergencies in Johnston County between 2 and 10 a.m. Friday, while the system was down. At worst, dispatchers say, it would have delayed getting immediate services to those in rural areas where some places are difficult to find.

The problem affected 50,000 phone lines in Johnston County, but was cleared up before noon there, as in most other counties. Officials were most concerned about such places as hospitals and nursing homes that house people in need of immediate critical care. In those places, 9-1-1 is the life line.

Officials say it's a problem they've never experienced in that area before, but should it happen again, calls could be made to one's local police or sheriff's department until service is restored.

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