Orange County calls on feds to investigate 911 outage

- Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called on the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to investigate AT&T after, she says, the cell phone company failed to notify customers about an inability to call 911.

Orange County officials say firefighters discovered the problem and spread the word to the rest of the state. 

“It’s out? Tell someone.  That’s what we did,” said Orange County Fire and Rescue Chief Otto Drozd.

For about four hours Wednesday night, 911 calls from AT&T cell phone customers didn’t get through to dispatchers.  The problem was reported in at least five states. 

“Based on what I’ve seen from news reports around the nation, it’s pretty clear, that this was a problem that [AT&T was] aware of,” Jacobs said.

Officials say callers either got a busy signal or heard nothing at all.

“If you’re late paying a phone bill, you’re gonna get a text. Ok? You can get a text that your 911 system’s not working,” Jacobs said.

A team of firefighters are the ones that sounded the alarm when a patient—who got their attention by tripping a home security system—showed them nine failed calls to 911.

“One of the things that I do is trouble shoot. And I just…something didn’t feel right,” said firefighter Matthew West.

Officials say AT&T’s problem was so bad, a backup plan was useless. 

Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris said 911 centers are on a network so that if calls don’t get through in one dispatch center someone at another dispatch center should be able to pick up the call.

“From what it looks like to us, there was a failure before it even got to that fail safe,” Harris said.

An AT&T spokeswoman said via email: “We take our 911 obligations very seriously and will be sharing additional information with the FCC.”

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