Surry County’s 911 system went down on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Most of the system was restored to service at 10:30 p.m. but full functionality was not brought back online until just before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“A fiber link was cut in Durham County,” said John Shelton, Surry emergency services director. “It has affected several other folks besides us.”
Shelton went on to say that because of the interconnected nature of the 911 system, Surry County was able to help Columbus County out when floods in their county took down their 911 system in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
“But there should be better redundancy,” he said, after the Durham County mishap took down Surry’s system on Monday.
Stephanie Conner, director of Surry County 911 communications center, explained that 911 calls come in to the center in two parts. Data is one part. Voice is the other. Voice was the missing part of the calls following the fiber cut in Durham County.
Callers to 911 couldn’t hear anyone on the line, she said, and since their call wasn’t going through properly, they thought they had to call back.
What callers did not know was that the data part of the call was working properly, and the location of their emergency was getting through to the call center, which was able to dispatch help to the location.
After talking with West Safety Services and Surry Communications, the two vendors involved on the Surry County end, call traffic was re-routed to the communications center’s admin lines, making voice communication possible between 911 operators and emergency callers.
However, there was no data part of the call, which Conner explained, was the missing functionality spoken of by Shelton. With the re-directed system, calls to 911 did not automatically have the location of the call. Operators had to get that information from callers vocally, as was done before modern systems were in place.
Just before 1:30 p.m. testing was completed on land lines and cell systems which confirmed that the county’s 911 system was restored to full functionality.