Cell phones throughout southern Minnesota were sent an emergency alert late Sunday night. While these alerts in the past have been used to notify the community of missing children and escaped inmates, this weekend it was used to warn residents who may experience an emergency.
Rice County – along with eight other counties in southeastern Minnesota – lost their emergency 911 services around 10 p.m. on Sunday, with most of them successfully being restored by Monday morning. According to a statement from CenturyLink, the outage was a result of a technical problem.
“On Sunday evening, some customers in southern Minnesota may have experienced disruptions to 911 service due to a technical issue,” the statement read. “Network technicians restored service shortly after 1 a.m. this morning and are investigating the issue.”
Counties affected by the outage included Steele, Rice, Dodge, Freeborn, Wabasha, Olmsted, Mower, Winona and Goodhue.
Almost an hour into the outage, the Rice/Steele 911 Center sent out a public safety alert to mobile phones within the two counties to make them aware of the situation. The message directed people to use the dispatch center’s nonemergency number during the time they were out.
The Rice/Steele 911 Center declined to comment Monday about details of the outage as their administrator was not available on Monday. The dispatch supervisor stated that they are still waiting for more information on CenturyLink regarding the issue and how long it impacted their services.
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office reported that their 911 services were restored around 3:30 a.m. They also stated that they are awaiting further information from CenturyLink.
CenturyLink has been at the center of other 911 service outages in Minnesota of recent years. In August 2018, roughly 700 calls to 911 were dropped throughout the state, as well as more in six other states, something that regulators stated was due to “weaknesses” in CenturyLink’s administration of the state’s emergency call system. The outage that time was caused by human error at a CenturyLink vendor. The 2018 outage launched a Federal Communications Commission investigation that state and national legislators called for, ultimately leading to CenturyLink paying a $400,000 fine.
CenturyLink did not return a request for comment by press time.