Several Montana counties lose 911 service overnight

Posted at 1:12 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 15:12:18-04

KALISPELL – Several counties saw their 911 service go down late Wednesday.

Flathead County 911 Director Elizabeth Brooks says a failure in the network that delivers 911 calls to several Montana counties caused 911 calls to stop being delivered to many centers, including the Flathead Emergency Communication Center (FECC).

Brooks says that because of the location of where the interruption occurred, Flathead County’s 911 calls were unable to be routed elsewhere.

Once FECC officials were made aware of the situation, an emergency notification went out to cell phones and televisions countywide providing an alternate number to call in the event anyone needed to report an emergency.

911 phone services were restored at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Thursday and Brooks says FECC is working with vendors to determine the cause and to improve their communications with the Center when outages occur. 

The interference is believed to be caused by scheduled fiber optic cable maintenance that was being performed by Blackfoot Communications.

At that point the office of emergency management turned to two unpublished POTS lines and sent out an emergency alert informing people of what those unpublished numbers were.

The Office of Emergency Management says they think that system worked as well as it could, but the ultimate goal is to learn from this experience and prevent it from happening again.

"We are currently in the process of trying to work with Blackfoot and Centurylink to determine what happened so that we can prevent it from happening in the future," said Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck. "We take a lot of pride in having a 911 center that has a lot of built in redundancy to it and part of what we are most curious to find out is why those redundant systems were inoperable during this outage." 

— Additional reporting from Nicole Miller