Statewide 911 outage left woman facing intruder

After 37 calls rang with no answer, she seized a knife, drove him away

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SEATTLE — Dispatchers who couldn't answer the 911 call of an Everett woman facing an intruder are deeply troubled by the statewide system failure but relieved she wasn't injured, the dispatch center's executive director said Friday.

The 911 outage lasted about seven hours early Thursday and was resolved at about 7 a.m., CenturyLink said. A similar outage in parts of northwest Oregon lasted more than two hours and was resolved at about 3:30 a.m.

The failure was surprising and distressing to Kurt Mills at the SNOPAC center in Everett that dispatches for three dozen police and fire agencies. "I've worked throughout the country for 25 years, and I have never seen anything like this, never — for a whole state to go down," he said.

Alicia Cappola said she called 911 at least 37 times about the intruder, but couldn't get through. So she armed herself with a knife and confronted a man who had crawled in through a window. He ran out of the house.

About an hour after her first call she reached someone who dispatched a police officer. The officer took a report about the incident, Lt. Robert Goetz said.

Dozens of Washington dispatch centers were at least partially unreachable during the outage. They all use the CenturyLink system.

The cause of the outage in Washington is still being investigated, CenturyLink said Friday.

The outage in Oregon was caused by a maintenance issue and affected about 16,000 customers in Lincoln, Tillamook and Yamhill counties.

The failure, especially with Cappola, distressed the dispatchers.

It "must have been terrifying for her," Mills said. "It truly pains me to think of what she went through and all of us at SNOPAC are tremendously relieved the outcome wasn't worse.

"The state emergency phone network is designed to be resilient with redundant backups, he said.

"It goes without saying this is not acceptable and requires an explanation and concrete steps to ensure it does not occur again.

"The center dispatches for 36 police and fire agencies and typically handles about 1,600 calls a day, Mills said.