At 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Knox County residents received a public safety alert that 911 in the county was out of service. The alert gave residents the number of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to contact in the case of emergencies until further notice. The outage lasted for more than 24 hours, until around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
This was not the first time Knox County 911 has been out of commission recently: On Nov. 5, the service was down for approximately five-and-a-half hours. According to an email alert sent to the Kenyon community, this was because Lumen Technologies (previously CenturyLink) phone lines in the county were out of service. According to Knox Pages, another outage occurred on Oct. 16, also because of Lumen service issues.
Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey said that the Nov. 5 outage was part of a broader problem.
“It was a broken analog trunk line that caused an outage, not just for 911, but also for a significant number of systems in the area such as fire alarms, elevators, and landline phones,” Sweazey wrote in an email to the Collegian.
According to Sweazey, the Nov. 5 outage led the Office of Campus Safety to activate the campus-wide emergency alert system. “Since this was a more extensive outage that impacted a wider range of services and we knew [it] would take longer to get back in service, we chose to send out a RAVE alert. We want to reserve RAVE alerts for emergency situations so recipients don’t become “numb” to the alerts.”
A Nov. 29 post on the Knox County Commissioners Facebook page addresses the repeated outages, noting that Ohio law requires 911 centers to use analog phone lines, which Knox County does through Lumen. The post claims that the solution to repeated outages is to change this state law.
“The long-term solution sits with the Ohio House of Representatives, which is working on legislation that allows counties to move away from aging analog infrastructure,” the post reads. “Until that change is put into law, however, local emergency services are stuck with analog landline providers.”
This past July, Knox County replaced four non-emergency lines at the Sheriff’s Office, switching from Lumen to Spectrum. The alerts sent to residents about 911 outages this fall provided the number to those lines for residents to call in the event of an emergency.
The Facebook post also explains that when 911 lines are down, dispatchers are still able to see the phone number and the location of the call, and will call back or send an officer to investigate.
According to Sweazey, Kenyon’s Office of Campus Safety works closely with Knox County 911 services, and has a dispatch scanner in their office so they know when units are dispatched to campus. Sweazey said that the outage did not affect this scanner and Campus Safety was still able to monitor any outgoing units.
Sweazey advised students that in the event of future outages, they can call Campus Safety, who will then notify 911 dispatchers through the alternate number.