Green Country phone outage crashes 911 services

Tuesday, June 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A widespread telephone outage disrupted service to the entire 918 area code for hours Tuesday, crippling 911 service in some parts of eastern Oklahoma.
A Southwestern Bell spokesman said an internal power outage at the company's signaling location in downtown Tulsa caused a telephone outage from 2:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
“We were able to restore it, and we are back on," spokesman Marty Richter said at 8:30 a.m.
But telephone problems were still being reported throughout the morning in northeast Oklahoma. Some law enforcement agencies said 911 service was not working properly and computer systems used to check automobile tags and warrants were down.
The outage began affecting operations at the Latimer County Sheriff's Department at 2:45 a.m., dispatcher Brenda Luna said.
“On the 911, I can answer the call when it comes in but I have to do all the recording by hand," such as the address of the caller, Luna said.
There was a call for an ambulance Tuesday morning and Luna was able to dispatch the call by radio, but there have been no other emergencies, she said.
"I'm holding my breath," Luna said.
Bartlesville police spokesman Jay Harness said his community's enhanced 911 service also was not working."
We're still receiving 911 calls but we don't know(automatically) where they're coming from," he said. "At this point, it hasn't caused a problem"
Emergency service was restored in the city of Tulsa, which aunched its emergency operations plan upon the discovery of the outage around 3 a.m.
Police, fire and ambulance units were dispatched to major intersections and convenience stores to be available to residents needing emergency assistance.
Tulsa officials said Tuesday morning that they knew of no emergency calls that were missed.
Richter said he did not know how many people or residences lost phone service but said the outage involved land lines in the entire918 area code. He said the Southwestern Bell building had backup generators, but he did not know if they worked after the power outage.
In the Tulsa suburb of Owasso, Assistant City Manager Tim Rooneyawoke to the knock of a police officer at his door at 3:45 a.m.
"He explained to me that there was a big phone problem, that residential phones were down and the only information they were getting was by covering scanners from the city of Tulsa," he said. "Of course, you don't believe them, so you pick up the phone."
Rooney said his own service was restored around 5:45 a.m.
The city of Tulsa is practiced in dealing with phone cutoffs. In 1992, the sale of tickets to a Garth Brooks concert was blamed for jamming phone lines in Tulsa and preventing a man from reaching 911 when his wife had a heart attack and died.
A 1998 outage caused by flooding at the same downtown Southwestern Bell building shut down the city's 911 system for 51minutes and left it working intermittently for several hours.
In Okmulgee, the police department's 911 database went down, along with telephones, pagers and cellular phones, Capt. Ed Humphreys said. But it was a quiet night.
“Thank goodness traffic isn't as abundant as the bigger cities. We stood by and hoped and prayed we didn't get any calls," he said.