According to the provider, the emergency number 911 in South Dakota is down nationwide due to a hurricane in the southern United States • South Dakota Searchlight

A second nationwide emergency call outage this year is believed to be caused by Hurricane Beryl, which made landfall in Texas on Tuesday evening and Damage to the network infrastructuresaid Lumen, South Dakota's 911 telecommunications provider, formerly known as CenturyLink.

The investigation into the cause is still ongoing, said spokesman Matthew Villarreal.

“Our technicians have been working hard to resolve an intermittent outage that impacted some customers' ability to reach 911 in South Dakota and parts of Nebraska,” Villarreal said in an emailed statement. “We thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”

South Dakota signed his contract with Lumen for “Next Generation 911 services” in 2019 and has been extended the contract until 2029. The contract value is up to 36.33 million dollars.

Lumen is headquartered in Louisiana and its network infrastructure spans the entire country. The nationwide emergency call failure in April in South Dakota was caused by a company that installed a light pole in Kansas City, Missouri, the company said at the time.

In addition to the nationwide outages, 911 service was out in southeastern South Dakota in January, leaving customers in Lincoln, Union, Miner and Minnehaha counties unable to call 911 from landlines for hours, according to Report from Siouxland Proud.

This week's hurricane also caused a network outage at AT&T, affecting emergency calls in Texas and Louisiana.

Company with $36 million SD 911 contract reports power outage due to light pole installation in Missouri

Sioux Falls residents were without emergency services for about six hours between two outages Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, said Michael Gramlick, Sioux Falls deputy fire chief and director of Metro Communications. The outage affected hundreds of emergency calls across South Dakota.

Gramlick said the state's largest city was “immediately notified of the power outage” and that Metro Communications has taken lessons learned from the April outage to troubleshoot the outage and keep 911 services running, including urging residents to call a non-emergency number or text 911.

During the outage, the city received 522 emergency calls (including texts and calls to non-emergency numbers) — twice as many as on a normal day. Many of these were “test calls” from residents, Gramlick added, and all calls were returned by emergency services.

The two outages are forcing local and state emergency dispatchers to rethink their layoff policies, Gramlick said.

“We don't want to believe that this is a regular occurrence, but our job is to prepare for such occurrences,” Gramlick said.

Stephanie Olson, deputy director of Pennington County's emergency dispatch center, said similar outages have occurred in the western part of the state. Dispatch center staff were notified of the first outage by the state's 911 coordinator Tuesday evening, but noticed the second outage on their own.

“We can see when someone tries to call 911, but then our phone system doesn't ring. So we know there's a problem with the phone system,” Olson said. The county called 32 residents back when the first call didn't go through. 65 more calls came via text or non-emergency number.

Residents calling using Verizon and AT&T phones called a dead line, Olson explained, while some T-Mobile and landline phones were rerouted to alternate 911 centers in Canada and Colorado that are handling misdirected calls.

“We're learning to continue to educate our staff and citizens about 911 capabilities and that texting is available. That was available throughout the night,” Olson said. “If they call and can't get through, we have redundancies in place.”

State agency investigates why 911 network backup systems did not work

The Federal Communications Commission announced after the nationwide outage earlier this year that it would investigate recent outages across the country. The FCC recently declined to provide South Dakota Searchlight with an update on the status of the investigation.

“We do not comment on investigations as a general policy,” an FCC spokesman said in an email.

Following a power outage in 2020 in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and North Carolina, the Commission examined whether Lumen next to three other companiesfailed to transmit emergency calls and notify public safety customers in a timely manner. In a settlement, Lumen agreed to implement a compliance plan and pay a $3.8 million civil penalty.

Lumen serves the Omaha area and several other counties in eastern Nebraska. The company is under investigation there for recent outages in 2023 and earlier this year, according to the Nebraska Examiner.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety, which manages the state contract with Lumen, has not issued a press release about this week's power outage as of the time of this article's publication, nor has it responded to emailed questions from South Dakota Searchlight.

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