Executives from Century Link and Cincinnati Bell answer questions Tuesday from Warren County commissioners about why the 911 system malfunctioned. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
Photo: Lawrence Budd
Photo: Lawrence Budd

Ohio 911 manager: Warren County 911 issues could be statewide problem

“I think we may have a growing problem here in Ohio,” said Ohio 911 Administrator Rob Jackson.

Jackson was part of a discussion of 911 problems in Warren County with executives from the Century Link and Cincinnati Bell telecommunications companies and the county commissioners.

“By the grace of God, somebody didn’t die,” County Commissioner Dave Young said.

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Most recently, some 911 calls from land lines to the county system malfunctioned after a Century Link line was cut in the Bellbrook area on Sept. 26.

Executives from the two companies said they were still working to find a second location for calls to be switched from Cincinnati Bell to Century Link lines, providing an alternate when a line cut or another problem stopped service through the other line.

Roger Werth, senior director of network operations and support for Cincinnati Bell, said the system switched the calls, but the “voice path” was blocked as a result of the line cut.

“This is a unique situation,” Werth said. “It fell through the cracks.”

“It won’t happen again as we move forward,” he added.

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Josh Motzer, director of state government relations for Century Link, said although there are redundant lines to Mansfield and Lima, the calls go through the same switch point in Lebanon, regardless of their destination.

“We do not have physical diversity,” Motzer said.

Motzer said this shortcoming was not pointed out in audits by the Federal Communications Commission, the national telecommunication regulator.

“I suspect this will now become a requirement,” Commissioner Shannon Jones said. “If I were you, I would choose to be more proactive about it or there will be a regulation.”

Motzer said Century Link would be proactive in correcting the problem.

In response to a question from Jones, Werth said physical diversity should be standard operating procedure.

Jackson said he realized a meeting with county telecom and company officials that the companies that share service lacked sufficient knowledge of each other’s systems.

“They really should,” he said.

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Jackson also said he asked Century Link and Cincinnati Bell where else the physical diversity problem existed.

“They didn’t know,” he said, “I don’t think anybody does.”

Paul Kindell, director of the county’s telecommunications system, including the 911 service, said the recent problem only affected certain land-line users.

“The majority of our calls are coming in as wireless calls now,” Kindell said.

“Some of them are coming in from grandma on the wall. She’s having a heart attack,” Young replied.

The September outage followed two in July, also referred to by Kindell in his presentation.

Young emphasized the importance of an effective 911 system.

“This is the one thing we can’t screw up,” Young said. “It just seems to me there’s so many issues.”

Wirth predicted the second location would be in place within four months.

Kindell, and perhaps Jackson, are expected to report back in 30 days.

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