Local News

Cause Of 911 Outage Is Rare, Embarq Spokesman Says

Posted October 3, 2006 6:29 a.m. EDT

— An Embarq spokesman said Tuesday that the cause of an outage that temporarily shut down multiple 911 call centers Monday night is rare and that technicians are closely examining what went wrong.

The spokesman for the telephone-services provider, Tom Matthews, said a faulty part in one of its offices in Rocky Mount triggered the problem.

"A card similar to a card you may have in your computer simply went bad," Matthews said.

The sporadic 911 outages began just after 4 p.m. Monday, according to a Rocky Mount city spokeswoman, and spread to centers in nearly 20 other counties in eastern North Carolina, including Johnston, Moore, Nash and Wilson.

"We were losing calls, as far as calls were dropping out. Sometimes, they could hear us, but we couldn't hear them, and sometimes it was vice versa," said Sgt. Jay Fortenberry with Rocky Mount's emergency communications center.

Emergency management officials scrambled to publicize alternate emergency numbers for residents to call. More staff was also rushed in to help.

Because enhanced 911 systems were down, in many cases, operators could not instantly see the location of someone calling for help. The e911 technology tells emergency services a caller's geographic location.

"It does slow us down some," Fortenberry said. "We have to ask more questions, get more information from the caller."

Embarq technicians found and fixed the problem and had most systems back online by 9 p.m. No problems have been reported since.

"It was a larger area, obviously, than we would hope for something like this to happen," Matthews said. "And we will do everything we can do to ensure that this type of thing does not recur."

State and local emergency officials in counties affected said they have not received complaints of anyone not getting help who needed it during the outage.