Frontier makes plan to prevent future 911 outages

- Frontier Communications says it will create a backup system for the service it provides 911 call centers to prevent a widespread outage like the ones that happened Wednesday across several Bay Area counties.

Frontier is now working to reassure its customers and the public after the massive outage left thousands of residents without any way to call for help.

It happened two separate times during the early and late morning hours.The company says the outages were caused by two separate issues, which have been repaired. Now the focus is on making sure it can't happen again.

The first outage happened around midnight Wednesday. About two hours later, service was restored. But not for long.

LINK: Widespread 911 outages reported across Bay Area

Later in the morning, lines were down again for about two hours, prompting emergency alerts sending thousands of residents alternate ways to call for help.

For those whose job it is to be the reassuring voice during an emergency situation, they know this had the potential for disaster.

"It's definitely frustrating, yes," said Jacob Saur, Manatee County Emergency Communications Center Chief. "The main concern is if someone is needing help from first responders and they can't get that help, then, we have a big problem."

Frontier Communications said the first outage was caused by routine network maintenance being conducted by Century Link/Level 3 associated with a Florida DOT road project near Clewiston. The second one was related to a fiber cable being cut.

Frontier's 911 service runs over two networks so that if there's a problem with one, a redundant network can pick it up. That didn't happen.

"For some reason, those two pieces were combined to one network," said Frontier Spokesperson Bob Elek. "So. when that one network was touched or impacted, it took both of them down. It took the service. The problem is a strange one. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen something like this before unless there was massive network damage. So, it should be an easy one to repair and fix so it doesn't happen again and we will definitely do it."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office 911 call center gets more than a thousand calls each day. Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says he plans to find out exactly why some had to go unanswered.

"There will still have to be some answers on why there was no redundancy, what type of disaster recovery program there was," Dugan said.

The biggest concern now is making sure those who needed help, got it.

"We'll see how many people tried to get ahold of us," Dugan said. "It doesn't appear it created any issues for us but we won't know for a while."

Once that's handled, the next priority is making sure this can't be repeated.

"Using that old technology of copper wire to route 911 calls is going to go away," said Saur. "So, we are preparing to for the future by routing 911 calls through the internet. However, it takes time to get that in place."

Frontier says it is taking steps to make sure the two 911 routers - the main one and the backup - are completely separate. That way, both won't be able to go down at the same time again.

A full list of non-emergency numbers for various Tampa Bay agencies can be found here

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