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Washington Commission Investigates 911 Outage

Flickr Photo/Four12

The State Utilities and Transportation Commission has opened an investigation into last Thursday’s 911 emergency line outage.

CenturyLink said about 4,500 calls failed to get through during the outage. The telecommunications company said a similar outage that occurred in Oregon around the same time was unrelated.

In a statement, CenturyLink said the Washington outage was caused by a technical error in a third-party vendor's call router. The error prevented the system from properly processing calls.

CenturyLink said it and the vendor have taken steps to implement an enhanced monitoring process and have addressed the router issue. CenturyLink said the 911 system is fully operational and stable.

That doesn’t satisfy Ziggy Dahl, the Washington state 911 coordinator. “We’re having daily telephone meetings with CenturyLink until we all understand what happened, what the exact resolution is and that there’s a lesser probability of a similar situation in the future."

Dahl said the outage caught everyone way off guard. He said it appears the problem was with a piece of equipment that was out of state and that caused Washington's network to lock up.

“That should not have happened," Dahl said. "We have redundancy built in all over the place in our network. So that’s one of our principal concerns is, why did that happen? How could that have happened? What code got written that allowed that and what are we going to do about it?”

The State Utilities and Transportation Commission wouldn’t comment on an open investigation, but they’re planning to hold public meetings on the issue.

In the meantime, Dahl said it’s important for people to keep their local 10-digit emergency numbers handy just in case.