False 911 calls

Published 2:11 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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Windstream making false emergency calls from landlines

POLK COUNTY—Polk County officials are dealing with false 911 calls being made from landlines of Windstream.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met last week and heard from one resident who has had several instances where emergency calls were made from a landline she does not have a phone connected.

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Commissioner Ray Gasperson read a letter from Kelley Thomson into the record during the meeting. She said the calls put a strain on the county’s sheriff’s office resources and it is not only financially costly for taxpayers, it also risks the safety of our community.

Thomson said on July 22 a deputy arrived at her home saying she was responding to an incomplete 911 call from her address. Thomson said at the time she was on her cell phone with Windstream’s technical support reporting that her Internet was down.

“Also keep in mind that I do not have a telephone plugged into my landline as it is used solely for Internet connection,” Thomson explained. “It appears that when the Internet connection is lost, Windstream automatically places an incomplete 911 call to emergency services from the landline number, which naturally they must respond to.”

She detailed 7 incidences in her letter and also alerted county officials to another incident last week. Some false calls the county has called her per her request but is she does not answer, such as a few in the middle of the night, county officials respond to her home.

“The lack of modern infrastructure in Polk County prevents us from being able to notify our law enforcement of a false situation to prevent them from having to waste time and resources,” Thomson said. “I have learned from the deputies responding to the calls that this situation is occurring in several locations throughout the county with other Windstream customers, it is not limited to just my landline.”

She told commissioners Windstream needs to be billed and held accountable for these false calls and the county reimbursed for its time.

“How much more strain will there be on our sheriff’s office when online school resumes?” Thomson asked. “Will this happen every single time there is a dropped Internet connection?”

Thomson also said how appreciative she is of the sheriff’s office for their timely and efficient service they provide.

“And as ridiculous as all this seems, I do find it humorous that Windstream now calls 911 for help when the Internet goes down,” Thomson said. “God knows they need all the help they can get.”

Commissioners discussed the issue last week. Gasperson said he knows the county is working on Internet upgrades throughout the county and that Windstream has been doing upgrades.

County manager Marche Pittman said he has forwarded the letter to the vice president of operations of Windstream and has been in contact with the company about the issue.

Yoder said that is a big problem with safety in the county and is happy to see county officials are addressing the problem.