Emergency communications in Pima County were down for nearly an hour and a half Tuesday morning, leaving residents only able to use nonemergency contacts for help.

A technical issue linked to Century Link’s equipment, which services Pima County’s regional 911 system, left an unknown number of residents with a busy phone signal when dialing 911 between 3 a.m. and 4:25 a.m.

The cause of the technical issue is still under investigation, according to Mark Molzen, issues manager with Century Link’s Corporate Communications. The issues were completely resolved by 5:30 a.m.

Pima County officials are awaiting the report from Century Link on the exact cause of the outage, which “is never supposed to happen,” said Andrew Squire, a spokesman with the Tucson City Manager’s Office. He added that the outage also affected the system’s back-up system, which acts as a fail-safe.

Officials have dealt with glitches in the service, but a system-wide outage has never occurred, according to Squire.

Tucson was one of the areas hit hardest by the outage, Squire said, but the extent of local callers unable to get through to emergency services was not available.

The Pima County Sheriff’s and Tucson Police departments, along with other regional agencies posted to social media pages to alert the public. The sheriff’s department also alerted residents with the use of their mobile phone application.

Tucson Fire Department used the PulsePoint phone app to send out the alternate emergency number.

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Pima County’s mass notification system was likely not used as service was restored in some areas by the time officials knew how bad the outage was, Squire said. The system requires an online sign-up for a resident to receive alerts.

A City of Tucson news release said the investigation will help “eliminate the possibility of an event like this occurring again.”

If you find yourself unable to call 911 due to technical problems, you should call:

  • The nonemergency line for Pima County 520-351-4900
  • For police and fire emergencies in the Tucson city limits, call 520-791-5059
  • Download the PulsePoint app for incident locations and any future alerts about disruptions
  • Also, sign up to receive alerts from the Pima County mass notification system at tucne.ws/19aa

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1.

Reporter

Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.