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911 Outage In Washington, Oregon Due To 2 Separate Problems, Says CenturyLink

The 911 service outage that affected most of the Pacific Northwest this morning was the result of two separate, unrelated problems, according to CenturyLink, which provides the infrastructure for 911 in the region.

What started as a 911 outage in Oregon around 1:30 a.m. Thursday was quickly felt in Washington state, too. But CenturyLink spokeswoman Jan Kampbell says the two outages are unrelated.

“One had nothing to do with the other. The timing was just crazy,” she said.

Details are still scarce, but Kampbell says the company is still working to determine the cause.

Washington State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jason Hicks says there have been 911 outages before, “but never at this magnitude that our communications officers were officers were aware of.”

Hicks says State Patrol immediately put its backup plan in place, referring the public to a regular 10-digit phone number.

Luckily, Hicks says, the outage happened during a time when 911 centers usually see lower volumes of calls. But he says anything that stands in the way of the public reaching emergency help is a big problem.

“If we miss that one call that could have potentially got help to someone, then that’s the one we worry about,” Hicks said.

Hicks says the State Patrol did get calls from the public on its backup phone line. The outage was over by 8 a.m., with only a few sporadic problems remaining for customers using voice-over-Internet phone service.

Kampbell says the company takes customer safety seriously, and investigating the Washington 911 outage is top priority.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.