9-1-1 Disruption Cleared

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

June 29, 2023

Have you ever had a nightmare where you had to call for help and discovered that the emergency system didn’t work? That’s kind of what happened recently with the County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla, on June 18, cell giant Verizon notified the department that it was having a “regional issue with the 9-1-1 service for Verizon subscribers that was impacting all of San Luis Obispo County.”

Calling for help on a cell phone isn’t the same as dialing in from a landline, as cellular calls ring first at the Highway Patrol dispatch center in SLO and are then routed to either the Sheriff’s dispatch, County Fire dispatch or the various cities’ police departments, those that still have their own dispatchers. It can slow response times by a little bit but the switches are made almost instantaneously.

But that issue could be lessened when the County’s new co-dispatch center for law enforcement and Cal Fire/County Fire are combined under the same roof.

SLO County has issued contracts for the project to build that new facility in Templeton in a lot adjacent to Hwy 101. 

That’s where the County’s investigations led as the best location for a new dispatch center. A $23 million construction contract was awarded last August (2022) to Diani Building, Corp.

When the dispatch center is finished, the Sheriff’s dispatchers that now work out of the Office of Emergency Services Building on Kansas Avenue adjacent to the County Jail will move operations. So too with Cal Fire/County Fire Dispatch which currently works out of the agency’s headquarters on Hwy 1 at the western edge of SLO.

The Sheriff’s Department adjusted to handle the matter. 

“The calls,” Cipolla said on the 18th, “are being automatically routed to the Sheriff’s Dispatch Center on 7-digit lines. As a result, callers should be aware that because their calls to 9-1-1 are coming to us on 7-digit lines instead of 9-1-1 lines, they must provide us the location of the emergency and their phone number from which they are calling, as we will not be able to receive that information automatically.”

Ordinarily the 9-1-1 system gives information to dispatch in particular the address a call is coming from in the case of landlines. 

Cipolla added that at no time was the 9-1-1 service entirely interrupted and calls were still getting through.

Verizon’s 9-1-1 disruption lasted a couple of days. On June 20, Cipolla said, “The Sheriff’s Office was notified by Verizon that the 9-1-1 service issue has been corrected.”

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