Halted 911 services impacted callers in Yakima County

Halted 911 services impacted callers in Yakima County

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - About 90 percent of Washington state experienced a 911 outage for almost 12 hours late Thursday night and into early Friday morning.

Local 911 dispatchers said they noticed a problem with their system in the late afternoon and it progressively got worse.

Brad Coughenour director of Suncomm, Yakima County's 911 system operator, said when they noticed callers couldn't get through they switched to a 10-digit line which took away some of their resources.

"We weren't totally down but what kind of hurt us is not the ability to transfer calls," Coughenour said. "Unfortunately we're one of the biggest users in the state of translator services."

He said when people called, their phone number and location wouldn't show up and it became a longer process to get people the help they needed.

One local Johnny Vargas said he tried calling 911 but the signal was busy.

"There was an emergency last night, I tried calling 911 about five times," Vargas said. "The number sounded like it was disconnected."

He said it was alarming when he couldn't get in touch with police.

"The emergency issue I had, I was thinking I could have been shot right now and had no help," he said.

So what caused the system to go down?

Suncomm said a Century Link internet outage caused a malfunction to the phone system.

Coughenour said this isn't the first time this has happened in Washington state, he said there was a similar 911 outage just four years ago.

Coughenour is advising the public to sign up for the emergency alert system so everyone is prepared in the future.

"That's where we push a lot of our information through the reverse 911 system," he said. "It goes out to all your phones so it's good to have not only for this situation but for other catastrophic events."

Dispatch said you can also text 911 if your call isn't going through.

If you have an emergency and aren't able to get connected to 911 you can call the dispatch's backup number 509-457-0207.

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