9OYS Wants to Know
Cricket glitch affecting 911 calls: What happened, exactly?
Cricket customers had trouble making emergency calls for 5 hours
Reporter: Claire Doan
KGUN9-TV (TUCSON) – Another problem plagued Tucson’s emergency call center Thursday night – but this time, it wasn’t the new 911 system at fault, but the cellular provider Cricket Communications.
For five hours, Cricket cell phone users had problems calling 911, with many of them experiencing dropped calls.
“It is just terrible, with all the dropped calls and the network being down. It’s an unreliable network,” said Terry Smith, a Cricket customer.
A city spokesperson would not talk to KGUN9 News on camera, but did provide a timeline of what occurred.
Dispatchers noticed a problem around 9:30 Thursday night with dropped calls. Fifteen minutes later, City Manager Mike Letcher, Chief Roberto Villaseñor and General Services Director Joan Stauch were alerted. At 10p.m., authorities redirected all calls to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, with two TPD staff sent to the communications center there to assist with call taking.
Shortly thereafter, two Qwest technicians discovered that the vast majority of dropped calls came from Cricket Cellphone users. PCSD staff noticed that they experienced the same problem with dropped calls from Cricket users; at that time, calls were redirected back to Tucson’s 911 center. Two separate media alerts were issued 11:53pm and 12:25am through the reverse 911 system, telling Cricket cell phone users to make emergency calls with a landline. By 2:05am, Cricket was able to complete work on its fiber optic lines and resolve the problem.
Not everyone was happy with the way authorities handled the problem: Councilman Steve Kozachik said an alert should’ve been sent out earlier.
“Let the media know. Everybody in Tucson knows you guys are going on air at 10 o’clock. If you find out about it, call the media and say, ‘Hey, this is going on. Don’t call the communications center from a cell phone,” Kozachik told 9 On Your Side. “This is a public safety issue. It’s a communications issue.”
Kozachik also said the alert sent to mayor and council was not updated to include all current council members.
What about the way Cricket Communications handled the problem?
Jennifer Briscoe, a company spokesperson, told KGUN9 News the 911 connection was “inadvertently disconnected” as they were doing maintenance.
“We are looking at the situation internally and are continuing to make any adjustments and revisit processes so that this doesn’t happen again with the 911 system,” Briscoe said. “We regret any inconvenience that this caused our customers.”
Briscoe was unable to answer 9 On Your Side’s questions about the steps Cricket took to notify customers, how many pepole were impacted or how widespread the problem was.
The glitch did not just affect Cricket customers in Tucson; it stretched into Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.