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Centurylink outage caused staffing, security issues at Cole Co. jail

A widespread phone and internet outage, stemming from construction work in Kansas City, caused statewide issues including an electronic system failure in the Cole County Jail.

Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said the Monday morning outage resulted in a shutdown of certain systems, including cell door operations. The doors, which are normally operated electronically throughout the day, had to be mechanically opened with keys for a full day.

Some employees worked long shifts on Monday because of the need for more staffing, Wheeler said. He added there is a safety risk any time there's a systems failure. All of the jail's systems were back online by Tuesday morning.

"Maybe the state needs to look into how a single line can disrupt services for so many, especially first responders," Wheeler said.

A cut fiber line in Kansas City caused the outage, according to a Centurylink spokesperson. A third-party construction crew was installing street signs at the time, they said.

It's not clear what company or government agency was behind the cut line.

Centurylink customers in Missouri and Kansas temporarily lost phone or internet service, which was restored in the evening, according to the company.

More than 100 state buildings were impacted by the outage, according to the state Office of Administration, as well as several public safety agencies in Mid-Missouri.

Linda Johnson, of Centurylink, said the company "quickly notified" public safety officials affected by the outage.

"We know that when someone calls 911, seconds count and we take that responsibility seriously," Johnson said.

The Boone County Joint Communications said it experienced a potential disruption of 911 services, and encouraged anyone in need of police, fire or medical services to go to the nearest building for either department.

BCJC Director Chad Martin said it's not clear how many 911 calls were interrupted by the outage.

"When CenturyLink is not able to deliver a call to us, we have no way of knowing it was attempted," Martin said in an email Tuesday.

Cole County Emergency Management experienced minor issues, according to director Bill Farr. Other than an outage of the county's email service, there were no impacts to 911 calls.

The director of Cole County EMS, Matt Lindewirth, and Maj. Tom Reddin, of the Boone County Sheriff's Department, both said the outage caused minor troubles with communications systems, but that it had no significant impact on operations.

"This outage was caused when a third-party construction crew struck our fiber while the crew was installing new street signs," Johnson said in an email. "We know it’s frustrating not to have service and are focused on providing reliable communications."

The company, on Tuesday, did not provide an estimate on how many customers were affected by the outage.

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Barry Mangold

Barry Mangold reports for ABC 17 News on weekday evenings and anchors weekend evening broadcasts.


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