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Cut fiber-optic cable causes 911 phone call disruption

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

David King said at 1:37 p.m. that he received a call from the local Lumen/CenturyLink technician.

“He advised that this was not a cut and that RT Communications/Range Telephone was in the area of the problem (18 miles from Wright) working on the fiber and wired something wrong,” King said. “He advised that it should be fixed now.”

Jennifer Toscana said at 3:34 p.m. that, as she immediately previously confirmed with Gillette police, 911 service is again fully functional.

GILLETTE, Wyo. — A cut of a fiber-optic cable caused a disruption for people trying to call 911 and several other public numbers this morning, Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King said.

King said he does not know when service to 911 will resume. It will take time for the repair.

“It goes to show the vulnerabilities we have as we get more sophisticated in our society,” he said. “We rely on technology and then all of the sudden, when it’s not there, now what do we do?”

The outage has taken out all the county phones in the courthouse, all the phones at the sheriff’s office and all the phones at the Gillette police department, according to King.

“It’s affected a lot of phones, all over the place,” he said.

AT&T has more outages on cell phones compared with Verizon, and it seems like Campbell, Crook and Weston counties are the primary areas of impact, according to King. A portion of the Claremont area of eastern Sheridan County also appears to be impacted but he supposes that that area is served with Campbell County equipment.

People can still text 911, King said. Dispatchers can call back the number that they receive a text from.

Campbell County Fire Department said in a Facebook post that all phone lines to the department are working.

What to do if you are outside of Gillette city limits

In the meantime, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office is using the following numbers for emergency purposes: 307-299-3029, 307-299-0826 and 307-696-9261. Until further notice, these are the only numbers residents should call for emergency calls, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

The three numbers are those of three spare county cellphones that the office has on hand and gave to dispatchers, King said.

Londen Tabor said on Facebook that the first number, 307-299-3029, is hers, not a Campbell County Sheriff’s Office number.

What to do if you are inside Gillette city limits

City of Gillette Public Affairs Director Jennifer Toscana said in a text at 8:51 a.m. that 911 services are down due to a CenturyLink outage. Anyone in Gillette city limits who has an emergency should call 307-689-7702 or 307-670-3200. City Hall phones are also down.

“We also understand that some cell phones may not be working,” she said in a text at 9:17 a.m. “If you are unable to place a call, send a message to 911@gillettewy.gov. It will also go directly to our dispatch team.”

Customers can continue to make payments online, Toscana said in an email at 10:41 a.m.

For more information, contact Toscana at 307-228-0977.

More on what happened and how officials responded

King said that at about 3:45 a.m., the sheriff’s office got a notice from Lumen of a possible 911 outage. Wyoming Public Service Commission, which controls the phone companies in Wyoming, is looking into the issue.

King said that he used the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to send out an alert to people on their cell phones without a cost to phone owners. It is the same system that AMBER alerts use, but local officials can set it off for their own jurisdiction. Anyone who drives into the county, or within the range of the activated cellphone towers, within the time period officials set will get the message even if they were not in the area when first was sent out. The messages went out a little before 8 a.m.

“We don’t use it very often because it needs to be an imminent threat to life or safety,” he said.

This is only about the third time Campbell County has used the system since the county acquired it, which was about 10 or 15 years ago, King said.

Wyoming Public Service Commission Secretary and Chief Counsel John Burbridge said at 11:20 a.m. that the commission is investigating the incident, but has nothing firm to report yet.

“Lumen has identified the issue and crews are working to remedy the situation,” Wyoming Office of Homeland Security Grants/Finance Section Chief Ashley Paulsrud said at 1:16 p.m. “There is no estimated time for services to be restored.”

Paulsrud said Lumen had a network event that prompted a Public Safety Answering Points/911 outage.

County 17 reached out this afternoon to Lumen’s media relations team.

County 17 will update this story as more information comes in.