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Phone outages hit Saratoga 911 center

BALLSTON SPA If you live in Saratoga County and need to call 911, you may get re-routed.  Verizon has been working since Sunday to fix a problem with an underground cable that has knocked out all of the administrative lines into the Sheriff's Department and half of the lines into the County 911 Center.  Chief Richard Castle of the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department say,  if you have an emergency and you call 911 you will be able to get through, it just may not be a Saratoga County dispatcher that answers.  The 911 Center has ten phone lines into it and as of Monday evening, only 5 of them are working.   If more than 5 calls come in at one time, Warren and Washington County dispatchers are prepared to assist. 

The dispatchers at the Saratoga County 911 Center are conducting business as usual despite the fact that only half of the lines are working.  If those 5 lines get tied up, the system automatically transfers incoming calls to another county, "any calls being received by them would be handled by the dispatchers receiving the call on their end, they would then notify our center by radio to dispatch the appropriate local resources," says Chief Castle.  But of course, the big question is whether that delays a response time, "it's an extra step but the delay is minimal, it's really no more... with the radio it's really no different than one dispatcher on one side of the room telling somebody else to dispatch a call," he says. 

While crews from Verizon work to locate and fix the problem that's caused the outage, they have offered a patch to get some of the administrative lines working again.  The Director of Emergency Services for the County, Carl Zeilman, says that's not good enough, "I'm working with Verizon, making sure that they have the resources on the ground, finding out what happened and what caused this situation and how fast they're going to rectify it," he tells CBS6.  

This is not the first time the phone lines into the 911 Center have been down.  Two years ago, according to the Chief, all 10 lines went down following a problem with an underground cable.  At that point, it was decided to use a "diverse routing" systemmeaning half of the lines come into the building in one area, the other half via a different cable, to prevent a total outage again.  "When it went down that time, we lost all 911 capability, after that we had another meeting with Verizon and we made some changes which is why this time we did not lose our full capacity, we'll debrief this situation with Verizon as well afterwards and come to a resolution to improve this in the event it happens again," Chief Castle says.