CenturyLink blames Minnesota's 911 outage on sub-contractor

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A CenturyLink spokesperson says an outage with a third-party vendor impacted Minnesota's 911 system, causing Wednesday's brief emergency system outage. The service was restored after about an hour, but emergency communications leaders say they’re hoping to have more answers soon.

Dana Walhberg, the director of Minnesota’s Emergency Communication Networks began her career as a 911 dispatcher three decades ago and Wednesday’s outage marked a first.

“I have never in my 30 years experienced an outage such as what we experienced yesterday,” said Walhberg at a press conference Thursday.

There are 102 call dispatch centers in the state. It’s unclear at this point if all were affected. Officials do know some calls were still getting through, so the system wasn’t entirely out, but many calls and text messages were not received.

“What we’ve learned from CenturyLink is their own vendor was performing work within their own network,” said Walhberg.

CenturyLink has been the state’s 911 provider for seven years. The company is in its second five-year service contract. According to the Department of Public Safety, a CenturyLink sub-contractor, West Safety Services, was doing a "routine process" on the network when the outage happened.

In a written statement for Fox 9, a CenturyLink spokesperson said, “On August 1, 2018, a third-party vendor had an outage that impacted CenturyLink services for approximately an hour. The impact of the vendor outage to CenturyLink affected enhanced services supporting 911. CenturyLink is working with the vendor to understand the root cause and preventive measures.”

The contract with the state requires a full report within 14 days to show exactly what happened.

“Well, when they give us information, we will expect data - concrete data that will guide us to understanding what the issue was,” said Walhberg.

The data should provide proof this had nothing to do with a hack or cyberattack.

“No evidence suggests that, but we expect that CenturyLink will review every factor and will provide us a full reason for outage,” she said.

CenturyLink and West Safety Services are working to determine how many calls did not reach a 911 call center.