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911 service goes down.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

Nobody had to tell Eugene resident Rhonda Jennett what to do when it became clear that her father needed an ambulance on Tuesday morning.

"I knew that I needed to dial 911, so I did. And I received a busy signal," Jennett said.

She tried calling from a second phone, then a third - with the same result each time.

Frustrated and confused, Jennett then phoned her father's doctor's office and explained to a receptionist there that her dad was having trouble breathing and that she could not get through to a 911 call taker.

"She said, 'That's not possible. 911 can't be busy. Are you sure you're dialing it right?' " Jennett recalled.

A nurse at the office confirmed Jennett's claim minutes later by making her own futile call to 911.

She then summoned an ambulance to Jennett's father's home after figuring out that she could contact Central Lane 911 by dialing 541-682-5111 - a nonemergency line for Eugene police and fire services.

Jennett said her father remained hospitalized on Tuesday afternoon.

"My dad is in (an intensive care unit) but he's stable," Jennett said Tuesday afternoon. "I was just so very concerned that somebody else had a different outcome than I did."

Across Lane County, 911 service was briefly interrupted Tuesday morning.

Central Lane 911 officials said the outage lasted at least 40 minutes, although a spokesman with Qwest, which provides telephone service to the 911 center, said service was restored in about 15 minutes.

Afterward, officials with Central Lane 911 acknowledged that most local residents probably don't know what to do in instances when the people who are supposed to handle emergencies experience a crisis of their own.

"This highlights that even though this is a rare situation, perhaps we should educate our public better," said Pam Collett, interim manager for the Eugene Police Department's technical services division.

The nonemergency number used by the nurse who spoke with Jennett is the right number to call whenever the local 911 system experiences a phone outage, Collett said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Central Lane 911 officials did not know what caused the outage that began about 9:30 a.m., Collett said. "It's a Qwest issue," she said.

Keith Burden, a spokesman with Qwest, said the outage remains under investigation but that it might be related to unspecified "upgrades" that the 911 center made recently.

Qwest crews "still need to do some testing to figure out where the hiccup was," Burden said. He said he did not believe the outage affected any Qwest customers other than the 911 center.

Collett said officials had not received any firsthand reports from citizens claiming that the outage caused harm to a person who needed help but could not get through to 911.

It may have been Jennett's emergency - dispatch logs show that an ambulance responded to her father's home at 9:43 a.m. - that helped Central Lane 911 officials realize they had a problem.

Two things happened nearly simultaneously, Collett said. "Call takers noticed it was not busy, and at the same time, we got a call (on the nonemergency line) from someone who had called 911 and said they got a fast busy (signal)."

Officials said a temporary fix to the system was in place by 10:06 a.m. They confirmed that 911 service was once again fully operational at 11:12 a.m.

Central Lane 911 serves most of Lane County, including the entire Eugene-Springfield area. People who live in areas surrounding Cottage Grove, Oakridge and Florence were not affected by the outage, since their emergency calls are routed through other dispatch centers in the region, Collett said.

It wasn't known Tuesday how many people tried to call Central Lane 911 when the phone lines were down, or how many called the nonemergency number after local media outlets reported the outage.

Collett said that typically between 20 and 30 calls to 911 would be made during the time period in which the phones were down. Not all calls end up being actual emergencies, she said.

Central Lane 911 is in a building near Second Avenue and Chambers Street in Eugene.


If you can't get through to 911

In most Lane County areas: Call 541-682-5111
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 29, 2011
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