back to article 911 goes MIA across multiple US states, cause unclear

Widespread 911 outages in the United States appear to have mostly been resolved, though that doesn't mean the cause is clear. Reports began coming in last night that 911 services were down across the states of Nebraska and South Dakota, with parts of Texas and Nevada – including the city of Las Vegas – experiencing downtime as …

  1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Coming soon to a town near anyone in the UK.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Thanks

    This is a lot more detail than the "OMG 911 IS DOWN EVERYWHERE" from the other "news" media. One didn't even list the states involved.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Thanks

      And who did they blame?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        1. jake Silver badge

          Only if Mr. Cash pays any attention to Faux News ... which I seriously doubt, even though he's been sentenced to living in Florida for some reason.

  3. Zibob Bronze badge

    404

    Copper not found.

    Or maybe it was...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: 404

      A single cut in the cable is probably wannabe copper thieves finding fiber and bailing out. Seems the idiots can't read the markings on the cables.

      Or so says a friend in low places at AT&T.

  4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Scope of 911 emergency call number

    Emergency telephone calls count in the UK as critical national infrastructure, and are usually (at least int he UK) well protected (at least physically for the blue light handling exchanges). Also in the UK coast guard and mountain rescue calls are via 999 or 112. There will be some explaining to be done, and for such large geographical area covers by the outages, I expect quite a lot of calls will have been made without result. I hope nobody died as a result.

    911 is not a global emergency call number, but is fairly common, as are 999 (probably a relic of the British Empire) and 112. For more info see:

    From good ol' Wikipedia:

    "911, sometimes written 9-1-1, is an emergency telephone number for Argentina, Canada, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Mexico, Palau, Panama, the Philippines, Sint Maarten, the United States,[2] and Uruguay, as well as the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), one of eight N11 codes."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/911_(emergency_telephone_number)#:~:text=911%2C%20sometimes%20written%209%2D1,one%20of%20eight%20N11%20codes.

    And the US State Department had a handy reference table for national emergency call numbers in other states at: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf .

    Worryingly, the entry for Tibet is "Unknown".

    1. ChoHag Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

      > Worryingly, the entry for Tibet is "Unknown".

      Did it get lost?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

        "Did it get lost?"

        No. The Chinese stole it.

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

      In the US, 111 was considered but 911 was selected instead because it was less likely that wires clashing in the wind would false dial it. With pulse dialing "111" is effectively just three hookswitch taps with a slight pause between each one.

      1. Kernel

        Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

        "With pulse dialing "111" is effectively just three hookswitch taps with a slight pause between each one."

        Depends on how your network is set up - in New Zealand we used reverse dials, so "111" was three trains of nine pulses - "999" as an emergency number could be dialed by wires in the wind.

        I'm not sure which, if any, other countries used a reverse dial system.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

          Interesting! I didn't know that. Were larger population centers given higher numbers because they were quicker to dial? In the US, New York City was given 212 because it was the shortest possible "pull" on a dial phone.

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

        I know the story different: 111 could be dialed by a baby, though the wires clashing sound plausible too. But 911 not something a baby could do on a rotary phone. Same reason why it is 110 in Germany and not 111.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Scope of 911 emergency call number

          As with all such complex decisions, there is no one, singular reason for the choice that was made.

          But people sure do love urban legends and simplicity, don't they?

  5. t245t Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Tharg Note: ‘Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014’

    Busy Signal: Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014

    “On the early morning of April 9 2014, more than 6000 calls to 911 failed to reach call centers during a system outage .. software used a counter with a fixed limit to assign incoming calls a tracking number, and on that morning the counter reached its maximum value of just 40 million, and thereafter began to drop calls”

    1. Don Bannister

      Re: Tharg Note: ‘Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014’

      40 million seems an odd number. Certainly doesn't seem to be binary related. Arbitrary choice by programmer ?!

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Tharg Note: ‘Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014’

        Ancient system with a fixed DB table size based on the first hard disk it used decades ago?

        Wouldn't be the first critical system decades past it's use-by date.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Tharg Note: ‘Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014’

        Might be BCD-related, if someone used 8 BCD digits — 4 bytes — and decided to use the higher values of the most-significant bytes for special purposes. BCD would definitely be a possibility if COBOL or a mainframe DBMS were involved. Still seems kind of arbitrary, though.

      4. jake Silver badge

        Re: Tharg Note: ‘Behind CenturyLink’s 911 Service Outage of 2014’

        40 million is the number picked by 99.35% of people who decide they need to pull a big number out of their arse.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    Cue Public Enemy

    Poor 911 service isn't just for the inner city anymore...

  7. DS999 Silver badge
    Pirate

    Anytime I hear about stuff like this

    My first thought these days is "ransomware", my next thought is "probing by state sponsored actors in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea"

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

      That's my second thought; my first thought is "fiber-seeking backhoe" because when you hear hoofbeats, you think horses, not zebras.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

        That's what I think when I hear about one localized issue, but when it is at least three separate incidents all happening on the same day...

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

          Though if we believe Lumen's explanation, it was really only two separate incidents: Texas, and a contractor error that caused the outage in the other states.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

          One local agency (BART) reports that they have five or six attempted or successful copper thefts per day. It wouldn't surprise me if the undereducated thieves accidentally cut a fiber line quite regularly, but we only hear about it when it affects something like an airport without redundancy.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

            I can't find it now, but there was an incident several years back where a fire in a fiber optic cable conduit caused a big outage. The fire department didn't put out the fire...because the company had posted a "HIGH VOLTAGE" sign to deter copper thieves.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Anytime I hear about stuff like this

      My guess was "router update gone wrong", but I see a backhoe done it.

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Fault tolerance

    I worry about my ISP going out so I have 3 VPN accounts as a backup

    /s

  9. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Easy answer

    The easy answer is an attack from a foreign state or hacker group, so I reckon it's an attack from a foreign state or hacker group. Maybe a dry run for something more insidious.

  10. disgruntled yank

    wide effect

    Nebraska and South Dakota are neighbors, but it's quite a ways from either to Nevada.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: wide effect

      But they all go to a single, central providers HQ, and the cut in the cable was right outside their front door :-)

  11. imanidiot Silver badge

    01189998819991197253

    But what about the real emergency number?

    On a more serious note, I find it kind of worrying that apparently someone installing a single new light pole (and apparently damaging one or more lines at that location) could take out emergency services in 3 states. That's the sort of cascade failure that's supposed to be prevented by having dynamic routing and backup/parallel paths.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 01189998819991197253

      Cascade or just that it's one, single aggregated route into the central core of the provider?

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: 01189998819991197253

        This is pretty likely.

        Redundant fiber also isn't a guarantee because these things tend to funnel into a few narrow areas where right of way is easy to get. I vaguely recall hearing about one outage where both redundant lines were cut because they were buried along the same set of train tracks.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 01189998819991197253

        I accidentally read "aggregated" as "aggravated", which significantly improved your already good post.

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