Officials: All 911 services restored after 7-hour outage

Alternative emergency phone numbers provided during 911 outage
Officials: All 911 services restored after 7-hour outage

A broken fiber line is being blamed for a 911 phone service outage in numerous southern Wisconsin counties for about seven hours.

Officials with Frontier Communications, which owns and operates the fiber optic cable that was severed, said all services were restored around 4 p.m. to the nearly 200,000 residents of the affected area.

The underground cable was inadvertently severed by a third party shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. The outage also affected some high-speed Internet customers.

Columbia County officials said they were advised at 9:10 a.m. Thursday by Frontier Communications that several public safety points in their area were not receiving 911 calls.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Darrell Kuhl said Frontier told them a fiber line was cut between Portage and Wisconsin Dells. Portage is the central point for the 911 system.

He was told 911 calls for Columbia, Marquette, Juneau and Adams counties and Wisconsin Dells are handled by that line.

Dodge County said Thursday morning that some 911 calls placed in the far western area of the county from cellphones have been affected. Callers were getting a busy signal or nothing at all, according to a release.

Frontier spokeswoman Karen Miller said the line was cut near Highway 60 and Harvey Road, north of DeForest.

“What bothers me is now that it’s affecting other entities, like 911 services, I get really concerned about that more than anything,” Fronteir Communications Manager Kelly Shipley said. “Yes it’s costly that this is happening, but that core 911 is what we get most concerned about.”

Columbia County made automated phone calls and used social media to alert residents to the outage. Fire departments, hospitals and schools in Columbia County were given a direct line to call if they were in need of help.

“We made phone calls to schools and hospitals to make them aware of it,” Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards said. “Everything any one of us could think of what to do, we did.”

Sauk County was originally reported as having an outage Thursday, but Wisconsin Emergency Management spokeswoman Lori Getter said the Sauk 911 service is functioning normally.

Shipley said their initial investigation shows that Kartechner Brothers, the company digging on scene, made the required call to inform officials that they’d be digging.

“In reviewing the area we’re still trying to determine if the locates were done by the cable locating company that does the cable locates for us,” Shipley said.

Frontier Communication’s spokesperson said USIC, the utility location service company responsible for marking the lines, is based out of Indianapolis.

USIC officials said they would not be making a statement on the incident until Friday.