Fiber line damaged by shotgun blast leaves rural Ariz. communities without 911 service

Local public safety leaders are calling for improvements and redundancies in the communications system


By Kerri Hatt

PHOENIX — Two rural Navajo and Apache counties in Arizona temporarily lost 911 service after someone shot a fiber communications line.

Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse told 12 News that Frontier Communications – the utility service provider for parts of rural Arizona – found a fiber line that appeared to have been shot by a shotgun.

Clouse and St. Johns Police Chief Lance Spivey reported the issues started on Saturday and things were back up and running Monday afternoon. Frontier Communications disputes this timeline, stating the service was only out for an hour on Sunday.

While the system was down, Chief Spivey said public safety officials had to take radios home in hopes of hearing any calls that did come in.

In a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission, Spivey said that a man died on the way to the hospital during the 911 outage. Chief Spivey also reported 5-year-old Kenna was badly cut while playing during the outage. Her mother, Breonna Ellington, told 12 News her first responder husband knew the phone lines were down, so they transported Kenna 20 minutes to a regional medical center for care, before driving her to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“Frontier knew that this critical point would cripple two counties and all first responders or could potentially cause harm to people. And they've done nothing about it except upgrading the wiring or the fiber. There is no redundancy,” Chief Spivey told 12 News.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Corporation Commission charged Frontier Communications to create plans to improve the system after identifying significant outages lasting hours to days across the parts of the state they serve.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the line was shot intentionally, but has not identified any suspects. Frontier Communications told 12 News they are offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) who vandalized the communication lines.

 

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