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Sprint cellphone customers in W.Va. can again dial 911

Caller location issue remains unresolved

July 09, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD and DAN DEARTH | matthewu@herald-mail.com and dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A technical problem that prevented Sprint cellphone customers from reaching emergency dispatchers on Monday in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia when dialing 911 has been resolved, officials said Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Jefferson County Emergency Communications Center and a Berkeley County Central Dispatch supervisor said they no longer had the “one-way” audio problem.

Washington County Emergency Services also received a number of disrupted calls from Sprint customers, an official said.

Kevin Lewis, director of the Washington County Division of Emergency Services, said the problem started Sunday during the day shift at the 911 center.

“There were 911 calls coming in with no party on the other end,” Lewis said. “It was like getting a 911 hang-up call.”

Lewis said EMS dispatchers followed protocol and called back the numbers that were left on Caller ID.

“The connection was fine when they called back,” Lewis said.

After a number of conversations, EMS officials were able to determine that the problem was isolated to Sprint customers, he said.

Lewis said Sprint was able to resolve the problem around 9 p.m. Sunday, when the phone company rerouted its phone connections.

He said people should not hang up if they call the 911 center and do not get a response. By staying on the line, dispatchers can get the cellphone number of the caller and pinpoint his or her location, Lewis said.

Lewis said maintaining a landline also helps if cellphones fail to work.

In West Virginia, Sprint still is working with Frontier and Verizon to resolve a continuing 911 caller-location issue, according to Jefferson County emergency officials.

The location of the caller is not always being sent to a 911 dispatcher, officials said.

On Monday, dispatchers were still able to reach the affected callers by immediately calling them back. At the time, the caller could hear the dispatcher who answered the 911 call, but the dispatcher was not able to hear the caller, officials said.

The disruption in service, which spanned much of Monday, did not involve any other mobile phone provider besides Sprint, officials said.

Shenandoah Telecommunications Co., or Shentel, a regional affiliate of Sprint, advised Jefferson County officials that the network has a reduced capability, operating at 55 percent capacity, officials said.

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