A 911 outage affected agencies across Washington state on Thursday and continued into the early hours of Friday, as people received emergency alerts on their smartphones late Thursday evening with alternatives to 911 phone numbers.
Update, Friday 8:40 a.m.: Some agencies, including the King County Sheriff”s Office, reported that 911 telephone services had recovered as of approximately 8:30 a.m. Friday morning. However, others are advising that service could still be intermittent.
— KingcosoPIO (@kingcosoPIO) December 28, 2018
Update, Friday 10:10 a.m.: The Federal Communications Commision has initiated an investigation into the outage.
Update, Friday 9:30 p.m.: CenturyLink said all consumer services have been restored.
Update, Saturday 3:45 p.m.: The outage was reportedly caused by a bad networking card in Colorado.
People in Washington and parts of Oregon had tweeted about receiving the emergency alert on their smartphones just past 11:20 p.m. PT Thursday, including GeekWire reporters in Portland, Ore.
The alert, which listed an alternative emergency number, appears to be sent via the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system that launched in 2012 and warns the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other situations. The WEA is different than President Trump’s new nationwide Emergency Alert System that was tested in October.
CenturyLink reported a nationwide disruption Thursday morning and later identified a “network element that was impacting customer services,” with a fix scheduled by 1 a.m. PT on Friday. It’s unclear if and how the CenturyLink problems were related to the 911 outage, but tweets from the Seattle Police Department and Clark County 911 Dispatch indicate they are connected.
If you are having difficulty connecting to the Seattle 911 Center, please call 206 583-2111, 206 625-5011 or text 911. City of Seattle technicians continue to work with @CenturyLink representatives to ensure our 911 service remains uninterrupted.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) December 28, 2018
— CRESA (@CRESA) December 27, 2018
ATTN: All 911 lines are down statewide, landlines and cell phones. For emergency assistance during this time, call RiverCom's business line at 509-663-9911.
— Chelan County EM (@ChelanCountyEM) December 28, 2018
Here’s a look at Thursday’s CenturyLink outages across the U.S., according to downdetector.com:
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted that “the FCC investigation needs to start now.”
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) December 27, 2018
CenturyLink was fined $2.9 million in 2016 by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for failing to reroute emergency calls during an April 2014 outage that lasted six hours.
We’ve reached out to CenturyLink for more details and will update this story when we hear back.
Here’s a list of alternate emergency numbers to call for various areas of the state: