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Communication questions created by Nashville bomb
Haston, Chuck - 911.png
Chuck Haston

Who’d think a bomb in downtown Nashville would disrupt 911 service in Warren County?

That’s what happened when a Christmas Day explosion left local residents without the ability to call 911 from their cellphones for over two days.

“There needs to be a hard look at this and action taken because I think there needs to be some improvements made,” said Warren County 911 director Chuck Haston.

A meeting of the Tennessee Emergency Communication Board had been set for this Monday, but the meeting was postponed.

The explosion outside the AT&T facility in downtown Nashville greatly damaged key infrastructure which created the 911 problems. Calls from landlines to 911 were not impacted. However, cellphone calls to 911, which represent about 80% of the total 911 volume, were unsuccessful because those calls are routed through a central network, which was compromised.

“Based on what I’ve been told from people who have visited the site, the damage was so catastrophic I guess we’re lucky to be back up this soon,” said Haston on Wednesday.

Haston said after the Christmas explosion last Friday morning, local 911 cellphone service began to be disrupted a couple hours later. The 911 cellphone service was out Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, and much of the day Sunday.

Haston said it was around 5 p.m. Sunday when 911 cellphone calls started to come through again intermittently. More calls began getting through Monday and Tuesday and Haston said 100% of the calls were getting through by Wednesday morning.

“It’s a sickening feeling for anyone who does this job to think people aren’t able to reach you,” said Haston.

He added that the non-emergency number for 911 dispatch, (931) 668-7000, remained operational the entire time. A text message was sent out much like an Amber Alert to inform local cellphone customers of the 668-7000 number.

“Some centers were cut off completely and didn’t have any way of getting incoming calls,” said Haston, indicating that could be a tragic situation if there was a car wreck or medical emergency and the proper first-responders couldn’t be notified.

Haston said it’s a good idea for local resident to memorize the non-emergency number or put it in their contacts in case a situation such as this arises in the future.

“Moving forward, I hope issues are addressed that will alleviate this problem,” said Haston.