Verizon officials looking for clues in 911 mystery
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Sept. 20, 2006 -- Local dispatchers have been experiencing problems with the emergency 911 system, presumably resulting from faulty equipment.

The troubles may be weather-related as the problems only seem to arise at nights during or in the days immediately following storms or other weather-related events.

The good news is that no dropped emergency calls have been reported, and communications operators say Verizon representatives have been checking into the problem since about 9 this morning.

The most recent difficulty came about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night after sheriff's dispatchers received four "calls" on the emergency 911 line. When dispatchers answered, the call was terminated, without even the sound of “dead air,” an indication that no one had actually made a call to the 911 system.

Whenchecking the computer logs where call information is recorded, all the dispatcher would see was "911," indicating the call came in on the 911 line, and numerous zeroes where the telephone number and address or other identifying information should appear.

"If the call had come from a cell phone it would have indicated a cell phone tower, and if it had originated from a residence an address would pop up on the screen," Hopkins County Sheriff's Communication Supervisor Ron Lowrie said Wednesday morning. "We got nothing on these, just 911 and zeros, so we do not believe they were actual emergency calls."

Lowrie said that it's not unusual for either the sheriff's office or police department to get these types of "calls" on their trunk lines following bad weather, generally after 10:30 at night.

But just to be safe, the dispatcher on duty at the sheriff's office contacted Verizon.

The telephone utility's representatives were at the sheriff's office by 9 a.m. Wednesday checking the 911 lines. They also checked the lines at the police department, and were still working at noon Wednesday trying to find the problem, but did report the lines at both agencies to be fully functional.

Lowrie said neither the sheriff's office nor police department had received any complaints of missed 911 calls during the time of the phone calls, or at any other time since the malfunction.

Anyone in the county who has difficulty getting through on the 911 emergency lineis asked to call 903-438-4040, which is the main number to the sheriff's office. In the event of 911 difficulties in the city of Sulphur Springs, call the police department at 903-885-7602.

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