Alert sent to some cellphones in Suffolk County announcing an issue...

Alert sent to some cellphones in Suffolk County announcing an issue with the 911 system at 6:49 p.m. Monday. Credit: Screenshot

More than a dozen hours after disruptions to the 911 emergency call reporting system first began, Suffolk County police and several other Suffolk police agencies finally had service restored late Tuesday morning, county officials and the phone carrier Verizon said.

Suffolk police first acknowledged the issue at about 6 p.m. Monday, saying the disruptions appeared intermittent — and asking anyone with issues to call 631-852-COPS.

Later, a handful of East End agencies reported service disruptions.

Late Tuesday morning, Suffolk police and the office of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said disruptions were no longer being reported.

Just after noon, Verizon — the carrier whose service was mainly affected — released a statement saying the other departments were no longer experiencing disruptions.

In that statement, Verizon said: "A network issue impacted some 911 services this morning involving the Riverhead Police Department, Southampton Town Police Department, and East Hampton Village Police Department. The issue has been quickly resolved and all services have been restored."

Suffolk police said Verizon informed them that the issue was a piece of failed equipment. The department was unable to quantify how many callers were impacted.

AT&T wireless callers were also affected for a brief period Monday night, according to Suffolk police, who said this outage was a result of the failed Verizon equipment. Calls from AT&T were able to be redirected.

Nassau County police said Tuesday its 911 emergency system had not experienced disruptions.

In announcing the disruptions Monday, Suffolk police said customers of at least one known cellphone carrier — later identified by the county executive's office as Verizon — were unable to reach 911 dispatchers in Suffolk. Callers reported instead reaching a fast busy signal.

Riverhead Town police reported "intermittent" issues by users attempting to access their 911 reporting system Monday night, but in a late-morning email Tuesday said that “all 911-phone systems are operating properly” in the town. Officials stressed that if callers did experience subsequent issues they should call 631-727-4500.

Suffolk's outage is not the first time the 911 system has let down the public.

The Federal Communications Commission has reported numerous 911 service outages in the past decade, including one in 2014 related to “a preventable coding error” that caused a disruption across seven states, one in 2018 that led to a 65-minute disruption across six states and a 2020 technological issue that led to 14 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington —  losing 911 service. Just last summer, the Nebraska Public Service Commission reported that agencies in Nebraska lost 911 service when two fiber cables were cut.

The FCC recently reported that 911 outages are “more frequent” than most people might expect and said that much of the issue stems with work to bring aging emergency reporting infrastructure up to speed with new, ever-evolving mobile technologies.

The FCC reported in 2014 that 70% of all 911 calls in the U.S. were placed via cellphones — and has since reported that while systems should have multiple fail-safes, often many have suffered single-point failures. Within the past year, the FCC adopted new rules requiring what it termed “timely notifications” to 911 call centers about service disruptions.

The FCC estimates about 600,000 emergency calls are placed daily in the nation. Suffolk police did not immediately have an estimate on their daily number of calls.

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