Severed conduit takes down 9-1-1

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A severed conduit temporarily decommissioned 9-1-1 locally, while leaving thousands of telephone, Internet and cellular users without service last Saturday.

According to a public information officer of Frontier Communications, a third-party construction crew unaffiliated with the company cut into an underground conduit with heavy-duty excavation equipment, causing heavy damage to fiber optic lines serving the Ridgecrest area.

Anyone using land lines, Frontier (formerly Verizon) internet, as well as AT&T and Sprint cellular, were unable to access those services from midafternoon Saturday until about 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

“Frontier crews were immediately dispatched, accessed the damage and worked continually as quickly as possible to repair the cable,” said Javier Mendoza of Frontier.

“We thank our customers and the communities we serve for their patience.”

Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand said that communication failures have impacted 9-1-1 before, but the valley has never before lost the land lines in conjunction with Internet.

“We were never out of commission with our public safety partners, since our radios were working fine, but it did take us some time to get an alternative system in place,” said Strand.

He said that he was thankful the department had made so many strides in building up a following on Facebook, where updates were posted as temporary numbers went live.

“Honestly, that’s what we were hoping for. We noticed right away the difference social media has made to us in getting information out to the public quickly. The original post, for example, had something like 26,000 shares and views in the first few hours.”

Although there was a fatal shooting at the approximate time when service was first lost, Strand said he did not believe there was any connection to the loss of service. “We have not found any evidence of any crime of opportunity.”

Strand said his department is still using the outage as a learning opportunity, logging procedures and refining them in the event that another situation takes out the emergency communication line.

“I do want to say that everyone did a good job of coordinating together and addressing the problem. The emergency services worked extremely well together in mitigating a significant communication loss to the community,” said Strand.

“Obviously, we learned a lot about how to get information out as quickly as possible when things outside of our control happen.”

Mendoza also reminded residents and business owners to call 811 before doing any digging.

The underground service alert system can help avoid damages that lead to service disruptions, he said.

Story First Published: 2017-05-12