Widespread 911 outages reported across Bay Area

For several hours, the 911 emergency lines were offline for most of the Bay Area, with agencies placing the blame on a cable provider.

Services returned during the first outage in the early morning hours on Wednesday, and Frontier Communications said agencies reporting the second outage should see services restored.

Once the dust settled and services were restored, the people who are there when seconds matter breathed a sigh of relief.

For 911 dispatchers, when their light turns red, it's time for action.

For 20 years, Mike Turner has been one of the steady and calming voices helping callers in Manatee County report their emergencies. But for several hours on Wednesday, his light remained dark. 

"It was eerily slow. It made you wonder how many people were out there that couldn't call us that needed us," he said. 

His and 12 other agencies did their best to tell residents to call their non-emergency numbers while Frontier worked to fix the problems.

"It's definitely out of the norm. It adds a stress level a bit," he said. 

When the lines go down, the 911 center works to find a landline not affected by the outage and route it back into the 911 center. 

From there, they spread the word about the backup number, all 10 digits of it, through social media and recorded phone calls. 

Emergency Communications Center Chief Jake Saur said dispatchers must pay extra attention to every call and detail provided during an outage like this one.

"They're going from a system that they use every day to take 911 calls to being able to get the call location to get a phone number to call back to nothing. They're basically using a regular business telephone to receive 911 calls," said Saur. 

Anyone still having trouble getting through can call for emergency help at the following numbers for the following agencies:

North Port Police Department: Police dispatch can be reached by Verizon cell phones at (941) 993-7629 or (941) 983-9159.‬
Tampa Police Department: (813) 231-6130
Tampa Fire Rescue: (813) 232-6805
Tampa International Airport: (813) 870-8760
Temple Terrace Police Department: (813) 506-6500
Plant City Police Department: (813) 757-920
Zephyrhills Police Department: (813) 780-0050
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office/Fire Rescue: 813-247-8200
Sarasota Police Department: (941) 366-8000
Manatee County Sheriff's Office: (941) 747-3011
Holmes Beach Police Department: (941) 708-5807
Venice Police Department: (941) 486-2444
Bradenton Police Department: 941-932-9301 or 941-932-9302

Frontier Communications told FOX 13 a glitch occurred during routine maintenance in the overnight hours, causing issues at 911 centers in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The error knocked out both of their routers from 1 a.m. to 1:50 a.m. Anyone in the Bay Area who called 911 during the 5-minute span would have received a busy signal. Dual routers are used to provide back-up for one another, but they've "never seen anything like" both going down at the same time.

Frontier issued the following statement in regards to the second outage:

“Frontier is experiencing issues with phone traffic in the Tampa area. The first issue took place during the night due to routine network maintenance being conducted by Century Link/Level 3 associated with a Florida DOT road project near Clewiston. The issue during the night impacted network links connected to E911 service in the area. The outage during the night lasted for a period of approximately 1:50 minutes. This morning at approximately 10:07 EST, some customers in the Tampa area are again experiencing an interruption in service due to issues it appears CenturyLink is experiencing related to a fiber cut.  We are in touch directly with CenturyLink and are working with them to restore services as soon as possible.”

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