’It’s a matter of life or death’: Cell, internet outages prevent town from calling 911

’It’s a matter of life or death’: Cell, Internet outages prevent town from calling 911

FAIR BLUFF, NC (WECT) - When someone is in an emergency, the response time from emergency crews can be the difference between life or death. However, neighbors in Fair Bluff can’t even reach those emergency crews because of recent cell and Internet outages.

People in the town said the outages have happened several times for several hours over the past month.

“When or if the 911 calls come out, we cannot receive them and the majority of the time, we have to have someone come up here personally and tell us there’s a wreck down the road," Sharon Davis, the captain of Fair Bluff Fire and Rescue, said.

“You only have a few minutes really to get to them to do what you’ve got to do to save a life," she said.

According to Cpt. Davis, during outages, the radios they receive calls on don’t work, and neither do the alerts sent to their cell phones. On Monday, she said someone had to knock on the station’s door to tell them about a car crash because they didn’t get the call, and that has happened more than once.

“Some of the people, if it’s a sick call and we get they’re late, they’re like, ‘Where y’all been? We called y’all a long time ago. Our person could’ve died. Our family member could’ve died or something could have happened,’" she said.

“We try to explain to them, look it’s not us. The Internet is down and it’s causing problems for a lot of people,” Cpt. Davis said.

Cpt. Davis said they’re forced to rely on word of mouth when it comes to emergencies.

“We just rely on [people]. Somebody might tell us this person is sick down the road or there is a wreck down the road, so we just have to like basically rely on what we know,” Cpt. Davis said.

WECT called the town’s cell and Internet provider, RiverStreet Networks, about the issue. Their office is in Wilkesboro.

A spokesperson said the outages are due to companies working in the Raleigh area accidentally cutting a fiber line. The spokesperson said those fiber lines connect to Fair Bluff. She said the company that does the damage has to fix it, so doesn’t know how long repairs will take.

People in town, though, said they want solutions not excuses.

“Please get this fixed because I am afraid it is going to cost somebody their life,” Cpt. Davis said.

“The fact is, somebody could be getting robbed. Somebody could be getting killed. How can they call with the Internet and phone service down? How can they reach out for some help,” she said.

The outages are also affecting businesses. When the Internet is down, most places can only take cash, no cards.

“It takes a big toll because you‘re the only grocery store in town and then the only business you do have goes elsewhere. It’s just not a lot of business when that [outages] happens and having to turn people down when that happens because they don’t have cash," Tara Greathouse, a shift leader at Hills Supermarket, said.

She had a message for the cell and Internet companies too.

“Get it together,” Greathouse said.

A quiet town, now creating some noise.

Several people in Fair Bluff also said Verizon service has also been going in and out. WECT reached out to the company and hadn’t heard back when this article was written.

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