What happens when 911 goes down

Posted at 3:37 PM, Apr 18, 2024

HELENA — Lewis and Clark County experienced a 911 outage on April 11 after a fiber line was cut. According to Helena-Lewis and Clark County 911 Center officials, there was a window of 10-15 minutes where callers to 911 got a busy signal. While 911 service was restored to callers in a matter of minutes, fixing the issue took longer.

Zach Slattery, the operations manager for the Helena-Lewis and Clark 911 Center, said he was alerted to the outage around 3:15 pm. A caller on the non-emergency dispatch line reported they dialed 911 and received a busy signal, and shortly after 911 service provider Lumen alerted dispatch to the outage.

Once alerted to the outage, Slattery said they activated backup procedures, which included routing 911 calls through Jefferson County.

“As far as I know, I have not heard there were any calls that went unanswered,” Slattery said of the short window when 911 was down in Lewis and Clark County.

While 911 service was restored to callers within 10-15 minutes, the outage lasted for a number of hours while the problem was diagnosed, the cut line located and then fixed.

“When we found out it was going significantly later into the night without a repair, it was decided we should send one of my staff members to Jefferson County just to help with the call volume should something large happen,” Slattery said.

Slattery also worked with the 911 center’s vendors to reroute 911 lines through the non-emergency dispatch lines in Lewis and Clark County.

Service was fully restored in Lewis and Clark County by 8:30 pm on April 11.

“We have a great relationship with our surrounding counties,” Slattery said. “Jefferson County—I can’t give them enough kudos for helping us during that time.”