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Some Douglas County 911 callers waited up to 15 seconds before ringing began this weekend

Public Service Commissioner wants delay issue to be investigated, commission to look inward
Posted at 7:42 PM, Oct 10, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — If you call 911, you don't want to wait and hope someone will pick up.

But a Douglas County 911 official told 3 News Now on Tuesday that some callers waited about 10-15 seconds before ringing began when calling late Saturday into early Sunday.

Lumen, a state 911 contractor, confirmed the issue. It said the delays for some callers lasted 5-15 seconds, but that all eventually got through.

A little more than a month ago, Douglas County was among more than half of Nebraska 911 centers impacted by a 911 outage due to cut fiber lines.

Other than Lumen's oversight, this issue is not related to the last. This time, a Lumen subcontractor, Intrado, needed to reboot a server, Douglas County 911 Director Kathy Allen said. After being discovered just before midnight, the delay issue was fixed by 7 a.m.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission has already launched investigations into the Aug. 31 911 outage and a completely separate outage impacting different parts of the state a few days later.

"It's extremely troubling for me," public service commissioner Christian Mirch, who represents much of Omaha, said about the latest issue.

Mirch said he's most concerned that the 911 center says it needed to wait on hold with Lumen for about 40 minutes before the issue could begin to be resolved. Douglas County 911 Director Allen confirmed the hold time of about 40 minutes.

Lumen said it could not comment on the hold time without more information. A spokesperson said Lumen has not been contacted about long hold times.

"The (911) failures that we've seen are not entirely surprising given my time on the commission and what I've seen," Mirch said. "These failures were bound to happen."

Mirch spent more than a decade as an Omaha Police Officer. He said appointed to the commission by the governor in January.

Mirch and another commissioner, Kevin Stocker, were censured by the other three members of the board a week ago. A reason has not been given.

"The Commission will not condone the conduct that led us to today’s decision to censure these two Commissioners," Commission Chair Dan Watermeier said in a statement at the time. "We shouldn’t need a code of conduct to tell us that as elected officials we are accountable for our actions. It is my expectation that by voting to censure, we are sending the message that as Commissioners we hold ourselves to the highest of standards and will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

"I can't get into personnel matters specifically," Mirch said when asked about his censure. "But what I can say is Commissioner Stocker and I have been ... pushing for positive change in the commission."

Mirch said he's like to see the latest incident be investigated by the commission separately from the others. He argues the investigation can't only look outside the commission.

"We have as a commission siloed ourselves off from other agencies," he said, "and sometimes an unwillingness to work with other agencies. That can't happen. Especially when it comes to 911. We need to be focused on making sure that the safety and the security of our public is top priority."

The Public Service Commission and Watermeir have not yet responded to request for comment on Mirch's comments. Lumen said it notified all 911 centers about the issue when it was discovered.

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