911 service restored after statewide outages

911 service restored after statewide outages »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Hundreds of people across Washington got a busy signal when they called 911 Thursday morning.

"These things aren't supposed to happen," says James Barber.

He manages Benton County's Emergency Dispatch Center. He rushed to work at 2 a.m., when an outage at a CenturyLink provider shut down dispatch centers.

"This was quite the kick in the teeth for every 911 center manager across the state," he says.

The outage lasted about five hours, about 2 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. On an average day, Benton and Franklin Counties together would receive between five and 15 calls in that window.

Reporter: "So if there was going to happen during a time of the day..."
Barber: "It doesn't get much better than this. I mean, if you have a crisis on 911, this would be the opportune time to have it."

When dispatchers realized the calls weren't going through, they pulled a button on the wall in their center which automatically transfers all the calls to the Richland Police Department, the alternate 911 dispatch center for Benton County.

This meant that some calls made it through for Benton County only. An investigation into just what went wrong is now underway at the state level.

"They're going to have to dig in their heels and find out what's going on. We need to make sure this doesn't happen in the future," James added.

In case an outage happens again, you can call any of the following numbers for your county:

Benton County: (509) 628-0333
Franklin County: (509) 545-3510
Walla Walla County: (509) 527-1960
Yakima County: (509) 865-4202
Kittitas County: (509) 925-8534
Columbia County: (509) 382-2518

A spokesperson for the state 911 emergency services says the investigation will likely last a week.