Road work in Clewiston blamed for temporary 911 service outages

Published January 31 2018
Updated February 1 2018


Senior dispatcher Zach Lloyd takes an emergency call while working at the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office Communication Bureau Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 in the Ybor City area Tampa. Emergency 911 phone service was temporarily cut off Wednesday in Hillsborough County and partially cut in Pinellas because of problems with work on a state road project in Clewiston that affected Frontier CommunicationsĂ services.

Emergency 911 phone service was temporarily cut off twice Wednesday in Hillsborough County and partially cut in Pinellas after workers 160 miles away disconnected computers that run the service.

The problem affected emergency calls in counties throughout the Tampa Bay region, at first for a 90-minute period starting just after midnight and again for another 90 minutes starting sometime after 11 a.m.

Tampa and St. Petersburg police said the issue was with Frontier Communications. Frontier blamed the problem, in part, on work being done by Century Link, a telecommunications company.

A road widening project on State Road 80 near Clewiston required Century Link workers to move cables, according to Bob Elek, a spokesperson for Frontier. This caused a computer and a backup computer to stop transmitting 911 calls, Elek said.

Both computers were originally on two different networks with two different companies as a safety measure. But Century Link bought the second company, Level 3, late last year and inadvertently placed them on the same network, Elek said.

Frontier will continue to use Century Link for the first computer, Elek said, but the backup will be on a new network.

In Hillsborough, where nearly 2,500 emergency calls are made daily, residents who dialed 911 only heard a busy signal. Tampa police and the Sheriff’s Office urged people to call nonemergency phone numbers in tweets and media releases.

Hillsborough County sent text and robocall alerts to phones of those who had signed up for the service and to those who had not, said Michelle Van Dyke, a county spokesperson. The alerts told residents which numbers to call.

In Pinellas, some callers may have had issues dialing 911, the Sheriff’s Office said. Those needing to make an emergency were asked to dial 911 but provided with a backup number.

Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said authorities are not aware of any major incident that occurred because people couldn’t reach 911.