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CenturyLink problem takes down 911 emergency lines

— A telephone problem put 911 service statewide on hold this morning, but the emergency number is mostly back up and running.

Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office dispatch said the CenturyLink phone problem meant people had to call the direct dispatch number of 509-422-7232. No statistics were available Thursday morning on the number of emergency calls going to that number during the outage.

The 911 service went down about 1:30 a.m. and was out until around 8 a.m., although some service began coming back around 6:30 a.m., said Mike Worden, chief deputy of special operations.

He said he was notified by the dispatch center around 1:50 a.m. RiverCom, which handles dispatching for Douglas and Chelan counties, was contacted and said its service was down, too.

CenturyLink and the state Emergency Operations Center were contacted and reported the system was more widespread, Worden said. Apparently the phone company had a service failure in Oregon that spread to Washington.

Emergency centers have pre-sent protocols for rerouting 911 calls if there’s a failure, but none of those were working. The outage also took down some offices’ administrative lines.

Ferry and Okanogan counties route to each others’ dispatch centers if there is a problem, but that system didn’t work, Worden said.

Ferry County was among those that lost some of its regular phone lines, said Ferry County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher Pete Brandon.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he understands there were scattered 911 outages after the bulk of the system went back on line.

Franklin and Grant counties, for example, were still having its emergency calls routed through Spokane County.

Brandon said no emergencies were reported to that office during the outage.

RiverCom could not be reached for comment.

CenturyLink said the problem affected only land line users, and not cellphones or voice over Internet lines.

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