YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – All of the phone service for Mahoning and Columbiana counties provided by AT&T has been restored following a huge outage on Tuesday.
East Liverpool was the only community where the phone system was still down Wednesday afternoon, but it came back online around 5 p.m., according to the Columbiana County EMA Director Luke Newbold.
The problem knocked out 911 for both counties, as well as some regular 10-digit service. Service also was knocked out in portions of Portage, Stark and Summit counties.
AT&T is blaming broken steam and water pipes at one of its switching facilities in Akron for the outage. And while most of that service has since been restored, local safety officials don’t want to see it happen again.
“We are going to have to talk to AT&T about this and get some additional details about what are the next steps and how do we prevent this from happening in the future,” Mahoning County EMA Director Dennis O’Hara said.
The outage forced customers to use the regular 10-digit numbers for calling police or fire, but officials worry in this cell phone age, many may not know what those numbers are.
“It is up to those people in the community to call your loved ones, call your neighbors, call your friends and make sure that if something like this has taken place, get the word out to know that 10-digit number,” Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said.
He advised residents to have their local police department’s 10-digit number programmed into their cell phone.
The fact that something like burst pipes could create such a mess has area officials very concerned. They also wonder why AT&T does not have a backup system in place to avoid such a widespread outage.
“We need to find out what failed, what the source of that failure was and we have to correct it. We have to retrace our steps,” Greene said.