911 outage happens at worst time for Wash. mom

Alicia Cappola said a man tried to break into her home around 1:45 a.m. in Everett, just north of Seattle.

Alicia Cappola

EVERETT, Wash. (CBS) -- A Washington state woman said she dialed 911 at least 37 times early Thursday morning when she came face to face with a home intruder, CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV reports.

Alicia Cappola said a man tried to break into her home around 1:45 a.m. in Everett, just north of Seattle.

Desperate for help, she dialed 911, only to find out that her calls were not going through.

Unbeknownst to Cappola, Washington state's 911 system was suffering from intermittent outages.

The entire state of Washington and a few counties in Oregon reported outages around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

CenturyLink, the state's 911 system provider, told KIRO-TV they were aware of the problem.

"After I tried 911 a couple times and it rang busy, they were still at the door," said Cappola.

Eventually, the man crawled in through a window, and Alicia, with her young twins asleep inside the house, armed herself with a knife, prepared to protect her family.

"You call 911, and they come, and they save you, and they weren't going to come and save me," she said.

The man soon ran out of her house, and she was able to get through on an alternate number for the Everett police that she had to look up on the Internet.

An hour after her first call, she finally got someone on the phone and police arrived. By that time, the intruder was gone.

But Cappola said she can't help but think how many more people across the state needed help.

"How many people were in serious situations that couldn't get someone? I mean, it's terrifying. It's so scary to need 911 and it's busy," she said.

By around 7 a.m., the system started coming back online. It might be impossible to track how many emergency calls went unnoticed or unanswered.

At the North East King County Regional Public Safety Communication Agency in Bellevue, where 911 dispatch calls are handled, workers said they have never seen an outage of this magnitude.

"When the phone lines don't work, we're dead in the water, and we are very anxious," said deputy director Mike Mandella.

CenturyLink said in a statement to KIRO-TV:

"At this time, 911 services have been restored throughout Washington. CenturyLink continues to work with the 911 centers to ensure that all issues have been resolved. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers."

The provider said it is still investigating the root cause of the outage.

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