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Light pole installation caused some of the temporary 911 outages that hit 4 states

Outages were reported in Texas, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota; the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the issue

911 Outage

A button used to contact emergency services is seen on a mobile phone, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in St. Louis. Law enforcement agencies in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas reported temporary outages to 911 services on Wednesday before saying hours later that services had been restored. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Jeff Roberson/AP

By Sarah Brumfield, Josh Funk and Jim Salter
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Many of the emergency 911 service outages that hit several states for a few hours were caused by the installation of a light pole, an official with a company that operates fiber lines said Thursday.

Outages were reported Wednesday night in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas. Service was restored by Thursday morning in all four states.

Although the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies were investigating, outages in Nevada, South Dakota and Nebraska stemmed from a cut fiber line “due to a third-party company installing a light pole — unrelated to our service,” Mark Molzen, global issues director for Lumen Technologies, said in an email to The Associated Press. Service was restored within 2 1/2 hours, he said.

Molzen said Lumen is not a 911 provider in Texas, so the loss of service there was unrelated to the line cut in Kansas City, Missouri. There were no reports of 911 outages in Kansas City.

“We are aware of reports of 911-related outages and we are currently investigating,” the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement posted on X. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which houses the National 911 Program, said in a statement that its Office of Emergency Medical Services “is monitoring this issue.”

In Douglas County, Nebraska, home to Omaha and more than a quarter of the state’s residents, 911 Director Kathy Allen said Lumen informed the agency at 1:42 a.m. that service was restored, but the county “did experience a few more issues.” Service was fully restored by 4 a.m., Allen said in a statement.

The Dundy County Sheriff’s Office in Nebraska warned in a social media post Wednesday night that 911 callers would receive a busy signal. The sheriff’s office advised that the provider for 911 services in the state was working to restore service and people with emergencies should call the administrative phone line. About three hours later, officials said that mobile and landline 911 services had been restored.

Cut fiber lines and other problems have caused 911 outages in recent years in Nebraska. The issue was worrisome enough that the Nebraska Public Service Commission hosted a hearing on the topic in December.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said in statement posted on social media Wednesday night that the 911 service interruption occurred in areas throughout the state. The agency noted that texting to 911 was working in most locations and people could still reach local law enforcement through non-emergency lines. Less than two hours later, the agency said service was restored.

Officials in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said during a news conference Thursday that the outage was unprecedented.

“To our knowledge, we have never experienced an outage of this magnitude or duration,” Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gramlick said.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department 911 Communications warned Wednesday evening of an outage affecting 911 and non-emergency calls in a social media post. Calls from landlines were not working, but officials said they could see the numbers of those who called from cellphones.

“Dial on a mobile device, and we will be able to see your number and will call you back right away,” the department posted.

About two hours later, the department posted that service was restored, and everyone who called during the outage had been called back and provided assistance.

The police department in Del Rio, Texas, a city of 35,000 residents along the U.S.-Mexico border, posted that “an outage with a major cellular carrier” was to blame. It didn’t say which carrier. Del Rio had the opposite problem of Las Vegas — 911 calls from cellphones didn’t work, so those needing help were urged to use a landline or another cell carrier.

The outages, ironically, occurred in the midst of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.


Brumfield reported from Washington, D.C., Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska, and Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri.