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AG Ferguson asks Washingtonians affected by last month's 911 outage to share story

By: KIRO 7 News Staff

Citizens who were affected by the 911 outage in December 2018, are being asked by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to contact his office.

Ferguson said he wants Washingtonians to share their stories if they were impacted by the outage that happened between Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 and lasted more than 12 hours.

“For the second time, CenturyLink has fallen short of its obligation to provide reliable 911 services for Washingtonians. If you called for help during this outage, only to be met with a busy signal, please share your story with my office. We want to know exactly how CenturyLink’s failure impacted the people of our state,” Ferguson said.

The outage stemmed from CenturyLink, which contracts with the state to provide 911 services.

Parts of Washington weren’t the only places where services were disrupted; CenturyLink’s nationwide outage affected emergency call centers in at least five other states.

People who dialed 911 received a fast-busy signal during the outage, a number of police and fire agencies said.

One woman told KIRO7’s Deedee Sun she was in Tukwila with a friend when they heard more than a dozen shots fired and tried to call 911 for help.

The last time a 911 outage happened in Washington was 2014. The entire state and a few counties in Oregon reported outages around 1:30 a.m. on April 10. That outage lasted six hours.

Ferguson urged the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to impose a maximum regulatory penalty of $11.5 million against CenturyLink.

However, CenturyLink was fined just short of $2.9 million for the outage, the attorney general said.

At that time, Ferguson said, “Bottom line –- CenturyLink is getting off with a slap on the wrist.”

Also during the 2014 outage, an Everett woman told KIRO 7 she dialed 911 at least 37 times when she came face-to-face with a home intruder.

Alicia Cappola said a man tried to break into her home around 1:45 am.
Desperate for help, she dialed 911, only to find out that her calls were not going through.

“After I tried 911 a couple times and it rang busy, they were still at the door,” said Cappola

Eventually, the man crawled in through a window, and Cappola, realizing that her young twins were asleep inside the house, armed herself with a knife, prepared to protect her family.

Luckily, the man soon ran out of her house, and she was able to get through on an alternate number for the Everett police that she had to look up on the Internet.

Ferguson would later file testimony with the commission, presented many stories, including Cappola’s.

CenturyLink has not given a reason for December 2018’s outage, other than saying something went wrong with a “network element.”

Although services are back up and running in Washington and other places, the FCC is investigating the nationwide outage, which mostly appeared in the western states.

“When an emergency strikes, it’s critical that Americans are able to use 911 to reach those who can help,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

“The CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling,” he said in a statement.

The Washington Utility and Transportation Commission is also launching its own investigation.

For those who want to share their experience about last month’s outage, the state Attorney General’s Office has set up an email: 911outage.atg.wa.gov.

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