Faulty equipment to blame for 911 issue in Minnesota 

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks division is learning more about the incident that affected 911 service for residents in eight southeastern Minnesota counties on Monday.

People in Dodge, Freeborn, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties experienced issues when attempting to call 911 between 12:56 and 8:08 p.m. Monday. Callers could speak to a dispatcher and heard the dispatcher speak, but the dispatcher could not hear the caller.

To work around this issue, the public safety answering points, or 911 dispatch centers, used caller information from their display screens to contact each caller using their administrative lines, according to a press release. In addition, they encouraged people who needed help to use their 10-digit, 24-hour, non-emergency numbers until service was restored. Text-to-911 service was also operational at that time.

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CenturyLink (now Lumen Technologies) is the state’s 911 service provider. Representatives said that a bad card that supports a large national fiber in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is to blame for the issue — and not a fiber line cut as they previously indicated. Engineers rebooted the equipment, which resolved the issue and fully restored service. Lumen Technologies is still investigating and will provide a reason for outage in three to five business days as required by its contract with the state.

The press release stated though there were challenges, 911 service was operable for the duration of this incident. No 911 calls went unanswered, and the network was working as intended. Calls were routed accurately and were answered by public safety answering points.

“911 is still a number Minnesotans can trust and should always be the first thing you try, but there are alternatives you can use in an emergency during a disruption,” said DPS-ECN Director Dana Wahlberg. “We encourage people to save the non-emergency numbers for PSAPs located in the counties where they live, work and frequently visit.”

The DPS-ECN is in the fifth year of a five-year $29 million contract with CenturyLink, which was rebranded as Lumen Technologies in September.