A 911 outage affected three states last week...was this a test-run for something much bigger?

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“Nothing to see here!” 

In yet another bizarre issue affecting infrastructure in the United States, the 911 emergency calling system in several states was rendered inoperative for a period of time last week. Was this a test run for something bigger? Possibly. 

On April 17, the 911 system affecting portions of Nevada, South Dakota, and Nebraska was down. According to the 911 service provider, Lumen, they claim the “installation of a light pole” was to blame, according to CNN

“On April 17, some customers in Nevada, South Dakota, and Nebraska experienced an outage due to a third-party company installing a light pole–unrelated to our services,” according to the company’s Global Issues Director, Mark Molzen, in a statement to CNN. 

During the outage, Lumen, a networking company providing E-911 services to local communities in several states, responded quickly. Mark Molzen, the company's Global Issues Director, confirmed that they worked diligently to restore the service, which was back up and running within three hours.

In other words, Molzen claims the installation of a single light pole, the location of which he refused to divulge, took down emergency calling systems in three states, including one that was geographically distant from the other two (Nevada is 1,289 road miles from Nebraska, 1379 road miles from South Dakota).  

The 911 director in Douglas County, Nebraska, where Omaha is located, said in a statement that Lumen informed him that the outage was related to a “fiber cut.” 

“We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding,” Molzen continued. 

As of last Thursday, most of the 911 service had been restored. During the outage, authorities in the states affected by the outage told residents needing assistance to either text 911 or call using non-emergency numbers. The outage included the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. 

CNN contacted the FCC, which said it was “aware of reports of 911-related outages, and we are currently investigating.” 

Meanwhile, another 911 outage affected the city of Del Rio, Texas, however, authorities said the outage was unrelated to the more extensive outage affecting states north and west of Texas. 

In the Del Rio incident, the police department said the outage was related to problems affecting a “major cellular carrier” and advised residents to contact the department using a landline or other cell service carrier. 

City spokesperson Peter Ojeda told CNN that Del Rio “was not affected by the 911 service issues experienced in other cities,” but rather an outage affecting a single mobile provider “affected their network broadly.” 

“Our emergency services remained fully operational throughout the incident, and there was no 911 outage in Del Rio,” Ojeda said. 

In Las Vegas, the Metropolitan Police Department announced that 911 disruptions were affecting their ability to communicate with city residents and urged them to text 911 instead of calling. CNN reported that operations were restored within two hours. 

A post on X by the LVMPD said dispatchers were able to see mobile numbers that contacted 911 during the outage and were able to contact them to provide assistance if needed. During the 911 outage, the department could not be reached by landline, nor was the routine non-emergency line available. 

In South Dakota, emergency services urged residents to “only utilize 911 services if an emergency situation exists” in Rapid City, while the City of Sioux Falls reported that its services had been restored. 

In Chase County, Nebraska, they reported on their Facebook page that “911 service is down across the State of Nebraska again for all cellular carriers except T-Mobile. Landlines can still get through to 911.” 

“Dial 911 on a mobile device, and we will be able to see your number and call you back right away. 911 calls from landlines are NOT working at the moment,” the department wrote on Facebook. There is no estimate for service restoration.” 

Was this a test run for a more significant outage? Just over a week ago, the Department of Homeland Security, which has been busy allowing an unmitigated invasion at our southern border, issued an assessment that found the 911 infrastructure in the country is vulnerable to cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks. They noted that bad actors could exploit personal data stolen during those attacks, and they pose “a persistent criminal threat to victims.” 

The assessment said that such attacks have already disrupted 911 networks and local police agencies. It also highlighted that emergency systems are often “interconnected,” meaning they are difficult to protect from cyberattacks. 

CNN said bulletins published by the DHS are distributed to local law enforcement agencies and companies that run critical infrastructure. 

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that a Chinese hacking group has infested systems tied to US infrastructure and is waiting for the perfect time to strike, according to Yahoo News. 

Wray said such systems are used to control water, energy, and telecommunications, along with other sectors. He noted that previous attacks by Chinese hacker groups were possibly practice attacks to prepare for a larger-scale operation. 

Wray told the Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats that the Volt Typhoon group, on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, was looking to strengthen " its ability to physically wreak havoc on our critical infrastructure at a time of its choosing,” noting the group was waiting “for just the right moment to deal a devastating blow.” 

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