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AT&T Suffers National Outage, Leaving Millions Without 911 Access

AT&T Suffers National Outage, Leaving Millions Without 911 Access


Customers from coast to coast unable to connect to cellular network for hours during massive AT&T outage

Beginning at 4am ET on Thursday morning, reports of AT&T service issues started flooding in from all over the country.

From Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami and nearly everywhere in between, millions of users were unable to make calls, send texts, or access the internet for almost twelve hours.

Now that service is restored and the dust has begun to settle, a clearer picture of what happened, why it happened, and the scope of impact is starting to form. 

So, follow along as we cover the full scoop on last week’s AT&T outage, finishing with a foolproof way to ensure you never go without emergency assistance during network interruptions.


What Was the Impact of the AT&T Outage?

According to Downdetector, a website that allows customers to report interruptions for a variety of online services, major cities, including Miami, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis were the most affected.

However, reports of the AT&T outage came in from users in over forty states. 

When trying to use their phones, many users found that they’d gone into SOS mode—the typical, automatic response when there’s no detectable network to connect to. 

By around 7am, a few hours after the problems began, the site had received tens of thousands of reports. Just two hours later, the number reached upwards of 70,000.

In the end, users went without service for around 11 hours, with AT&T making an official statement that they’d resolved the issue just after 3pm.

The Ripple Effect

Before the AT&T outage was resolved, it became so widespread that customers using other carriers thought their networks were experiencing issues. This happened because when they tried to reach out to AT&T users, their calls and texts weren’t going through. 

The result was thousands of reports from customers with Verizon, T-Mobile, and other networks claiming that their service was down when, in fact, it was functioning properly. The problems only arose when they tried to get in touch with AT&T customers.

No Service, No Emergency Lifeline

If your cell phone doesn’t have service, it’ll be difficult to call 911 in a crisis. 

Unfortunately, this was the case for millions of Americans last week, many of whom were unable to reach the public emergency system during the AT&T outage. It’s not very hard to imagine how quickly this situation can become a matter of life and death under the right or, more fittingly, wrong circumstances.

In response, local officials in areas such as San Francisco, Cabell County, West Virginia, and St. Joseph County, Michigan, told residents to text 911 or call using WiFi or a landline if they needed emergency assistance. But of course, these avenues aren’t always available, which can leave victims vulnerable and without help.

Luckily, however, there haven’t been any reports of outage-related 911 delays leading to serious health outcomes so far.

Test Calls Flooding 911 Call Centers

Even after the AT&T outage ended, troubles with emergency response continued. 

In a concerning and potentially dangerous development, many people tried calling 911 to test if their phones were working again.

In Massachusetts, the deluge of test calls became so overwhelming that it backed up numerous call centers across the state, causing the state police to post on social media, urging residents to test their phones with non-emergency calls.


What Caused the AT&T Outage?

With an outage of this magnitude, especially one that took so long to resolve, there’s always the threat of a cyber attack to consider.

After AT&T restored service Thursday afternoon, the Federal Communications Commission was quick to report that they’d begun an investigation with the help of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

However, it seems a cyber attack wasn’t to blame, as AT&T posted the following announcement on their website a few hours later:

“Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack. We are continuing our assessment of today’s outage to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve.”

An “initial review” implies that further investigation may uncover more about what caused the AT&T outage, but only time will tell if they choose to share any more information.


Outage-Proof Emergency Response

Nationwide outages like these are a sobering reminder of just how fragile the public emergency system can be. 

At the end of the day, it’s a phone service that relies primarily on wireless coverage to function. And as we’ve seen, it can cut out in an instant, with no guarantee as to when it’ll start up again.

But with a private, subscriber-dedicated system like the Rescu personal safety app, you’ll never have to worry about your emergency communication going unanswered.

That’s because Rescu works independently of the 911 system, boasting a 5-Diamond rated, UL-certified monitoring center that operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

With just two taps on their smartphone or Apple watch, users can dispatch fire, police, or ambulance services to their current location anywhere in the US within seconds. There’s no need to call or text anyone (if you can’t or don’t want to*).

*If you can or do, you’ll always have the option to open a text chat or call a dispatcher on the next screen after sending an alert.

If your carrier is experiencing network issues, Rescu HQ will be up and running through it all, ready to respond and get you the help you need as quickly as possible. 

So quickly, in fact, that Rescu is known as the fastest way to get help in an emergency. Twenty times faster than 911, if you can believe it.

And thanks to its private monitoring center, you’ll never have to worry about your alert getting lost in a sea of non-emergency calls.

If you’d like to learn more about how Rescu can protect you and your loved ones, check out our website.

And if you’re ready to have outage-proof emergency response at your fingertips, use the links below to download and get started.

Download on Apple Get it on Google Play

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