The console screen at the Whidbey Health Emergency Service station in Bayview tracks all active calls. EMS personnel say the system didnt miss a beat when the dispatch center in Oak Harbor was unable to process 9-1-1 calls last week.

The console screen at the Whidbey Health Emergency Service station in Bayview tracks all active calls. EMS personnel say the system didnt miss a beat when the dispatch center in Oak Harbor was unable to process 9-1-1 calls last week.

9-1-1 outage hits Whidbey, service back to normal

Island County’s 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system is back to normal operation after an outage at the end of last week.

“We were affected just like everyone else,” said Tom Shaughnessy, director of the county’s Emergency Services Communications Center.

An apparent failure in the CenturyLink phone switching system knocked out 9-1-1 dispatch service in Western Washington and other parts of the nation Thursday and Friday.

“CenturyLink sent an e-mail on Thursday, saying a problem appeared to be developing,” said Shaughnessy. “As soon as our dispatchers stopped getting calls, they confirmed the problem by contacting Skagit and Snohomish centers. Our toll free 10-digit local lines continued to work fine. Those lines are not part of the integrated national system. But because 9-1-1 is connected nationally, were were affected locally and not able to process those calls.”

Both Shaughnessy and Island County Emergency Management Director Eric Brooks said they are not aware of any problems relating to unanswered calls.

For the first time, cell phone users in Washington were notified by a new system which enables authorities to send messages to every phone in specified areas. The emergency alert read: “Widespread 911 outage in WA. In case of emergency, call local police or fire department.”

Brooks said Emergency Management sent notices by social media and email. Automated messages were sent to as many traditional land-based telephones as the office could identify. Island residents can ensure they receive emergency messages by signing up through the Office of Emergency Management, www.islandcountywa.gov/DEM/Pages/Home.aspx

The Island County Sheriff’s Office also posted a notice on its Facebook page.

Emergency Management was in constant contact with law enforcement, fire, and health authorities, and was prepared to escalate if necessary. “There was no cause for undue concern and all of our processes worked the way they should,” said Brooks.

All services from the major telecommunications companies serving Whidbey – Whidbey Telecom, Frontier, DishTV and Comcast – operated normally throughout the emergency dispatch failure.

When the integrated national system is operating properly, 9-1-1 calls from one location are actually routed through one of several connecting phone switches at another location instantaneously. For example, calls from Whidbey usually go through a CenturyLink connection in the Seattle area but could even be routed to a more distant switch.

Government officials have launched investigations of the 9-1-1 service disruption. Calling the outage “completely unacceptable,” Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the “breadth and duration are particularly troubling.”

State Utilities and Transportation Commission Regulatory Services Director Mark Vasconi said his office continues to watch developments.

Without elaboration, CenturyLink officials say the outage does not appear related to hacking. The telecommunications company, based in Monroe, La., is one of the largest in the United States, providing service in most states and interconnecting in all others. Outages in the 9-1-1 system were reported from coast-to-coast.

More in News

Series of felony cases on Whidbey Island involve impaired driving

Police and prosecutors on Whidbey Island have been busy in recent weeks… Continue reading

Neil Colburn recently closed Neil’s Clover Patch after about 40 years in Bayview. (Photo by Jessie Stensland /South Whidbey Record)
After 36 years, luck changes at Neil’s Clover Patch Cafe

To the surprise of many, the doors were locked, the grill turned… Continue reading

WhidbeyHealth still short on cash

A persistent decline in inpatient visits is contributing to low cash reserves… Continue reading

Extortion plan increases bail for molester suspect

A judge in Island County Superior Court increased a suspected child molester’s… Continue reading

(File photo)
Whidbey Island Fair kicks off Thursday, runs July 18-21

Fair has showcased Whidbey Island agriculture, local talent for over 90 years

Islanders join protest against detention centers

Vigils, signs and demonstrations across Whidbey Friday

Advisory Board holding public hearing on draft short-term rental ordinance

What rules should apply to homeowners who rent out houses, rooms or… Continue reading

Island County seeking District 1 applicants for planning commission

The Island County Board of Commissioners is seeking applicants from District 1,… Continue reading

Whidbey Community Foundation Receives $10K for census work

Whidbey Community Foundation received $10,000 in funding from the Washington Census Equity… Continue reading

Most Read