McFarland’s entire municipal operations, including emergency services, were unable to be reached by phone for 43.75 hours last week. Calls could not be made or received, and voicemail was not accessible.
All of the municipal phone lines were down beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27. The problem was remedied at 11:45 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.
Village Administrator Matt Schuenke said the biggest concern of the outage was ensuring all essential services were still being provided.
“For each department that varies exactly what that might be, but emergency response was never impeded for anyone, roads were still addressed this morning as a result of the snow, and for the most part was a large inconvenience for all trying to connect,” he said.
The village administrator said the police, fire/EMS and public works department still had access to their radio communication and cell phones.
Both McFarland Police Chief Craig Sherven and Fire/EMS Chief Chris Dennis said the ability to respond to emergency calls was not jeopardized as 911 calls are not dispatched locally.
“We were able to get messaging out to residents through various social media platforms that provided them with alternate ways to request our assistance. The Dane County 911 Center was advised that our phones were down and that they would be handling non-emergency calls as well,” Sherven said.
The chiefs noted the biggest impact was the limited ability for residents to contact the departments for non-emergency day-to-day business matters.
There were inconveniences for the rest of the village departments, too, as no one was able to simply place a call. Schuenke said if any of the municipal employees needed to contact someone, they were able to find a way to accomplish that using email or cell phones.
“I’m sure for the public it was frustrating trying to place a call only for it to go nowhere; for that we are sorry for the inconvenience,” he said.
According to an email from village technical specialist and interim village communications and technology director Andrew Day, a technician from Frontier, the service used by the municipal operations, was supposed to arrive between 8 a.m. and noon Wednesday, Nov. 28.
“After several communications with Frontier’s support line (Tuesday) night and (Wednesday), it seems that our ticket was created, the issue verified, and nothing was passed onto the technicians to be dispatched,” Day said.
A technician was supposed to have someone onsite Wednesday evening.
Day said a note on the ticket indicated the emergency service department phones were down and remedying the problem should be a priority. However, there was no guarantee of getting a technician sooner.
“Certainly in this day and age, you would hope that when you rely on something for service as we do with them for phone service that when we call to say it’s not working they are quick to get it working again,” Schuenke said. “Speed was not on our side this time and did take longer than it should have. We have communicated this to their staff that it is unacceptable, and they have assured improved response in the future. If that’s not achieved, we’ll have to consider our options.”
No cause for the service outage has been determined.