CenturyLink disruption causes massive 911 outage in Washington

Dec 27, 2018, 10:09 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2018, 1:30 pm

Several emergency call services across Western Washington experienced a 911 outage starting Thursday evening, stemming from a CenturyLink internet disruption. The outage continued into Friday until CenturyLink was able to restore service.

Even though 911 service returned Friday afternoon, some agencies in Washington continued to experience intermittent outages.

If you receive a busy signal when calling 911, try texting 911 or refer to the list of phone numbers below.

The problem reaching 911 in Western Washington stemmed from a nationwide CenturyLink internet outage which affected 911 service in Washington and other states. People calling 911 in the region often received a busy signal. Other 911 services in parts of Missouri, Idaho, and Arizona also reported outages. It also temporarily shut down phone services at the Idaho Department of Corrections.

Seattle and King County reported that 911 service was operational by 10:20 a.m., but still suggested people use alternate numbers to connect if they continue to get a busy signal. King County also urged people not to “test” the 911 system.

CenturyLink reported Saturday that 911 services had been fully restored, and to contact their repair department if you’re encountering any additional issues.

Who to call when 911 is down

Agencies recommended that people with emergencies call them directly or text 911. For emergency calls, use the following numbers if you’re in one of these locations:

  • King County: please call 206-296-3311
  • Seattle: 206-583-2111, 206-625-5011 or text 911
  • Bothell: 425-486-1254
  • Bainbridge Island: 360-308-5400
  • Chelan County: call RiverCom’s business line at 509-663-9911
  • Eastside King County area: 425-577-5656
  • Enumclaw: 360-825-3505
  • Island County: call 360-679-9567
  • Issaquah: 425-837-3200
  • King County: please call 206-296-3311
  • Kitsap County: For police, fire, medical for North, Central and South Kitsap call 360-308-5400, text to 911 still works
  • Kittitas County: call 509-925-8534
  • Lewis County: call 360-740-1105
  • Pacific County: callers are encouraged to text 911 or call the non-emergency business lines at 360-875-9397 or 360-642-9397
  • Pierce County (South Sound 911): call 253-798-4722
  • Renton: 425-430-7000
  • Redmond: 425-566-2500
  • Seattle: 206-583-2111, 206-625-5011 or text 911
  • Skagit County: call 360-428-3211
  • Snohomish County: 425-407-3999
  • Snoqualmie/North Bend: 425-888-3333
  • UW Police: 206-685-8973
  • Whatcom County: call 360-676-6911
  • Unincorporated areas: 206-296-3311.

911 outage

CenturyLink says it discovered additional technical problems as it worked to restore service over Thursday night and Friday morning. An online outage map showed CenturyLink internet service down across the nation. The company said the problem involved a “network element” that was affecting services, but didn’t provide details. By 7:45 a.m. Friday, CenturyLink reported that it was “seeing good progress, but our service restoration work is not complete. Our teams are continuing their efforts to resolve these issues…”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Friday morning that the commission’s public safety staff and Homeland Security have been directed to investigate the incident, further commenting that the outage was “completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling.”


KIRO 7 reports that a similar incident occurred in 2014. Washington state fined CenturyLink $2.85 million for that 911 failure. More than 5,000 calls were unable to get through to emergency services that time. CenturyLink did not inform police or fire department agencies of the problem during that incident.

The Associated Press and KIRO 7 contributed to this report.

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CenturyLink disruption causes massive 911 outage in Washington