6:58 PM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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NORTHEAST OHIO -- AT&T says it was a hardware problem that rerouted 911 calls and shut down other phone and internet lines across Northeast Ohio Friday afternoon.

"The problem was across Northeastern Ohio. It wasn't confined to our system, and it wasn't confined to Cuyahoga County," said Walter Topp, an administrator of the office of emergency management for the county.

The problem sent emergency calls to the wrong cities and shut down hospital landlines, and police information systems, even some radio airwaves.

At the Westlake Police Department, the alarm wasn't one they recognized.

"What kind of gave us our first clue that this was bigger than Westlake was when we tried to call AT&T and couldn't get through," said Capt. Guy Turner.

"People who dial 911 on the cell phones, the call was answered. We received no reports of any calls being dropped or lost. It's just the calls weren't always being answered at the right place," said Topp.

Backup systems make sure someone who can help is on the other end at all times.

"The people that are making the calls to 9-1-1 have other issues on their mind," said Turner.

While landline calls are routed by where you're calling from, cell phone calls come here to Cuyahoga Emergency Communications Systems. There you'll have to tell the dispatcher where you are.

"The first thing that's going to happen is, someone's going to ask - where are you calling from? Because we need to transfer that call to the appropriate dispatch center," said Topp.

"They need to stay on the line and answer the questions."

It's also a good idea to keep the non-emergency numbers of your local fire and police departments on your cellphone in case the automated systems fail. Those hardlines should always work.


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