PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The FCC is now looking into the cause of Wednesday night’s 911 outage affecting millions of AT&T customers in at least a dozen states, including Pennsylvania.
The company hasn’t said what caused the outage that had emergency officials across the country to go to Plan B.
Dispatchers at Delaware county’s 911 communication center were one of the first in the country to notice the issue.
“At around 7:45 we recognized we had a significant emergency,” said Timothy Boyce, the director of emergency service in Delaware County.
Boyce said AT&T customer were either getting a busy signal or the line just kept ringing, each time they dialed 911.
AT&T was able fix the issue by 10:30 p.m., but not before potentially costing one person their life.
“That person was in urgent need of medical care. The person that was with them tried for 10 to 15 minutes to call out on their cell phone. That 10 to 15 minutes were critical,” Boyce added.
Emergency Management in Delaware County believes this is why people should know the non-emergency numbers in their county.
Those numbers were the work around during the AT&T 911 outage.
“We are encouraging people to use this experience to learn,” said Boyce.
Having the non-emergency number for your county is extremely important, but emergency management said what is more important is having a general back up plan in case you lose power of cell phone service altogether.
You should talk with you family, about who’s house you can go to for help. Perhaps, learn the routes to the closest hospitals and police department.
Chester County’s Director of Emergency Services Bobby Kagel said their counterparts in Delaware County spread the word that AT&T customers weren’t getting through to 911.
So, in response, Kagel said they went on Twitter and Facebook to get critical information out to the public.
“Our 10-digit numbers that we advertise typically as non-emergency numbers. Although they’re still answered by 911 operators,” Kagel said.
Kagel said residents should keep these numbers handy and follow their counties on social media in case such problems and emergencies pop up.
And, Kagel says, even though dialing 911 didn’t work, AT&T customers could actually get through on their cell phones another way.
“Continued to work through this nationwide outage is the ability to actually text 911,” Kagel said.
Chester, Bucks and Montgomery Counties offer the ability to text 911.
See below for non-emergency phone numbers:
Berks County: 610-655-4911
Delaware County: 610-565-6500
Montgomery County: 610-635-4300
Chester County: 610-692-5100
Bucks County: 215-949-9100
Calls to areas in Lehigh County, not including the Cities of Allentown and Bethlehem, should be made to 610-437-5252. Callers in the City of Allentown should dial 610-437-7751; in the City of Bethlehem, callers should dial 610-865-7171.
Northampton County: (610) 330-2200
Philadelphia County: 215-686-8686.