Verizon Customers Go Without 911 Access in Ohio

The Huron County Emergency Management Agency issued a notice via Everbridge shortly before 6 p.m., letting local residents know the cellular company was “experiencing an issue with 911 calls.”

by Zoe Greszler, Norwalk Reflector, Ohio / April 17, 2019

(TNS) — Verizon Wireless customers weren’t able to access 9-1-1 for several hours Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The Huron County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) issued a notice via Everbridge shortly before 6 p.m., letting local residents know the cellular company was “experiencing an issue with 9-1-1 calls.”

“The calls are routing to the Huron County Sheriff ’s Office,” the notification said. “If you need local response please call your local agencies ten-digit phone number for assistance. Verizon is currently working to resolve the issue.”

Huron County 9-1-1 Coordinator Tacy Bond said she received a call at about 4:15 p.m. Monday alerting her to the issue. She said it was about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday when she received the call to let her know the issue had been fixed.

“While I was sleeping, they got it working,” she said. “I was still dealing with it at 10:30 (Monday) night and made myself a note to call them as soon as I woke up to check and see if the issue had been corrected, but I actually got the call before I got that opportunity. They must have fixed it sometime during the night.”

Bond said some details on the cause of the outage are still unknown.

“What we heard, and it’s not yet confirmed, but we were told … a fiber in Xenia was cut and it caused an outage,” she said. “We had a hard enough time getting through to someone at Verizon to report the outage at all. We heard it affected some in Crawford County too, so I don’t think it was just our county.”

Bond said other details have yet to be answered, such as how the wire the came to be cut.

When an outage like this occurs, she said the EMA’s biggest concern is making sure callers still get connected to someone who can help and then determining the cause. After being notified about the recent outage, Bond said the first thing she did was try to figure out if the outage was on the EMA’s end, or another.

“Pretty quickly we realized it was through Verizon,” she said. “I called on my cellphone on my way in and and I got through. I have AT&T. We had other test callers (who) actually were Verizon customers (who) couldn’t get through and we realized that the outage was on their end then.”

The 9-1-1 coordinator said the system has a back-up plan when such an outage occurs — reroute the calls to the sheriff’s office.

“It’s not that they weren’t getting answered, which is always the main concern,” she said. “They’d get the automated message for the Huron County Sheriff’s Office, and then they had to go through the admin lines. That’s how it’s supposed to work — to go to those admin lines so it’s at least answered by someone. ... It would have been a much bigger issue if they called and got a busy line and nobody answered.”

The outage, though, is still a concern, Bond said, because of the confusion it causes, as well as the delay in getting the caller the help they need.

“We tried to give them a heads-up as soon as possible so someone wouldn’t call 9-1-1 and think they dialed incorrectly,” she said.

Bond encouraged all local residents to sign up for notifications through the county’s Everbridge app system by visiting huroncountyema.org and then clicking on the “alerts” tab. Signing up for emergency notifications will send alerts to your phone, cellphone or email and help to keep residents up to date on any emergency, natural disasters or weather-related concern that happens in Huron County.

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