Callers needing emergency help in Spokane County could not get through to 911 operators for about 40 minutes this evening.
It’s unclear what caused the problem, and phone technicians are at the main emergency communications center, which is near Felts Field, working to identify the problem, said Spokane city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. The center handles calls seeking police or fire help within Spokane County, including within the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley.
Operators stopped getting calls about 6:40 p.m., Feist said. They attempted to run a backup system, which also didn’t work. The operators then left the site and drove about nine miles to the 911 backup center, which is north of the city of Spokane.
“Officials regularly do exercises at that center and keep all the equipment current to respond in just such a case,” Feist said.
The 911 system is a joint operation of the county, city and other emergency providers.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who is the chairman of the Spokane County Emergency Communications Board, said Crime Check phone lines also didn’t work during the outage.
Knezovich said that when the county’s 911 system goes down calls do not get forwarded to other emergency providers. He said the system was down for about 38 minutes before the backup center was operational.