Outage stalls 911 service in county

Official: AT&T coverage failed across state

GREENFIELD — 911 calls in Hancock County and other east central Indiana areas reportedly did not go through after a brief outage Friday morning.

Officials in Madison, Shelby and Hancock counties took to social media Friday around 9:40 a.m. to alert residents to issues with 911 services, and local leaders say they determined the trouble was caused by an issue with provider AT&T.

The problems had been resolved by 11:15 a.m.

John Jokantas, director of Hancock County 911, said local officials discovered the issue when a resident called the dispatch center’s non-emergency line around 9:30 a.m. and reported a friend’s 911 call hadn’t gone through.

Dispatchers began testing their system, placing several calls to 911 from inside the center. They quickly determined the outage was caused by an issue with AT&T, and they notified the company, Jokantas said.

AT&T already was working on the issue when local dispatchers reached out to them, Jokantas said, but the company has not released the nature of the problem.

Local officials believe the first call was the only call that had an issue coming through, Jokantas said.

“That call was processed when the other person called, and help was immediately sent,” Jokantas said in an email.

The person was suffering from an undisclosed medical issue.

Dispatchers posted on Facebook, contacted area news media and sent out messages through the county’s Smart 911 service to alert residents to the trouble and provide alternative phone numbers to call for help, and AT&T quickly resolved the issue.

AT&T has come under fire in the past because of the 911 outages its customers have experienced.

The Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation of the company in March after customers in 14 states reported 911 outages on the same day, the The Associated Press reported.

The commission found approximately 12,600 AT&T customers tried to call 911 that day but were unable to reach emergency services, according to an FCC report released in May. It was one of the largest 911 outages ever reported, and “likely could have been avoided had AT&T implemented additional checks with respect to their critical 911 network assets,” the report states.

A tally of 911 calls that did not go through had not been released by the company at press time.

Outages like these do not happen often, Jokantas said; but it’s important for residents to know alternative ways of contacting 911 should they experience problems dialing in.

Those who work and live in Hancock County should keep the county’s non-emergency 911 numbers of 317-477-1144 and 317-477-4400 programmed into their cellphone to ensure they always have another way of reaching dispatchers, he said.

Indiana also provides text-to-911 services, which were not affected by Friday’s outage, Jokantas said. Texting 911 with the location of an incident and a brief description of the problem, can serve as another backup, he said.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.