Dispatch

Dispatchers field calls at the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Monday night was particularly hectic for Pitkin County emergency dispatchers — not because of an uptick in local calls, but because they also were handling Eagle County calls.

“Oh, yes,” emergency dispatch supervisor Liesel Hadfield said when asked if the increase was noticeable. 

Two shifts oversaw the time during the outage: one with three dispatchers and the other with only two.

“You answer them as they come through, so unfortunately you never know what the next call is going to hold. You process them as quickly as you can and continue moving,” Hadfield said.

It all started when a truck damaged a CenturyLink overhead fiber cable in Park County, according to Chuck Vale, the regional point of contact for Colorado Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Management.

“Our whole world today is run by cyber optic cable around the world, and when something happens to one of them, it affects lots and lots of stuff,” he said. “So 911 is a part of that, but so is banking and everything else we do on a day-to-day basis that runs on fiber.

“It took us awhile to get our arms around exactly what counties were affected and then what counties were able to roll over their 911 to alternate centers.” 

Eagle County was one such county that “rolled over” to Pitkin County.

“We coordinated well across the state ... and the 911 centers coordinated within my region. I was very pleased with all of that,” Vale said. “So that’s the good news.”

According to Vale, CenturyLink related that 21 counties were affected by last night’s outage. In response, the Pitkin County Alert system warned at 9:08 p.m. Monday that “911 calls from your area may not be connected to our Dispatch Center. If you cannot get through on 911, call (970) 920-5310 to reach emergency services.” 

It turned out to be just that — a warning — as callers could still get through despite the uptick in call volume. 

“We were just on precaution because of everything going on,” dispatcher Colten Zippay said. “We didn’t want someone in a situation where they couldn’t call 911.”

By 4:20 a.m. Tuesday, all services had been restored, Vale confirmed. 

“It happens every now and then,” he said, referring to occasional 911 outages.

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com.