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Hardware failure causes disruption of phone service

November 18, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A hardware failure in a piece of equipment the size of a refrigerator on Thursday night at Verizon Communications' central office facility in Martinsburg disrupted service to about 24,000 landlines for about two hours, a company spokesman said.

From 7:12 to 9:21 p.m., Verizon customers in the Martinsburg area with 260, 262, 263, 264 and 267 exchanges could not contact customers who had a different exchange because the network's switch had failed, Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski said.

The customers affected by the failure also could not receive calls from a different exchange until technicians repaired the switch, Gierczynski said.

The failure made certain response operations at Berkeley County Central Dispatch more complicated, and the agency was deluged with inquiries about the service disruption, Central Dispatch/911 Director Mary Kackley said.

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"It did not cause any complications as far as receiving 911 calls," Kackley said.

The only difficulty dispatchers experienced involved transferring 911 calls of less significance to the appropriate law enforcement agency, she said.

Area cellular phone service apparently was clogged as a result of the landline disruption as well, forcing dispatchers to use the county's radio system to relay information, Kackley said.

Steve Allen, director of Berkeley County's office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Friday that his daughter was able to send him a text message on his cellular phone, but he was not able to receive a cellular call from her.

Though not affected by the disruption, Kackley said Jefferson County 911 communications officials received calls from Berkeley County residents about the situation.

Kackley on Friday recalled one instance in her 30-year tenure with Central Dispatch when landline customers with the 229 exchange in southern Berkeley County experienced a similar disruption.

"We have, what I believe, is excellent service from Verizon," Kackley said.

Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputies investigating a fatal accident on W.Va. 9 amid the telephone service failure Thursday night confirmed the disruption complicated efforts to contact towing companies and the county's medical examiner.

"It hesitated operations for the whole accident," Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. R.L. Gardner said.

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