A service outage caused by AT&T left customers unable to call 911 for a span of hours on Wednesday night.
Cell phone customers of AT&T experienced a 911 outage for a few hours on Tuesday across multiple states –and, if the case continues, the telecom company might need to a heavy federal fine as a matter of compensations.
Several police departments and local fire offices were influenced by the outrage and report the issue on Twitter which made the mobile users to call over the emergency number. Several agencies shared their alternative phone numbers so that the people could contact them in the hour of need.
Emergency calls placed by AT&T customers during this window were unable to connect to emergency services and were reported to just “ring and ring”. The outage hit parts of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, with the highest level of disruption occurring in Tennessee.
It is believed that the cause of the outage was unfortunately unclear, but AT&T was there to acknowledge the glitch and came on board to report it to the people. Moreover, wireless customers would not be able to connect to 911 due to this issue.
A representative for AT&T claims a software glitch was the apparent cause of the outage, but the Federal Communications Commission will be investigating the outage further to find the cause.
Outages like this are not unheard of, and the FCC has fined cell phone carriers for preventable 911 outages in the past. In 2014, an outage caused by a “coding error” at Verizon prevented roughly 750,000 customers from contacting 911 for six hours across the state of California. Similarly, T-Mobile suffered from two preventable outages in 2014. Both carriers were fined upwards of $1.5 million, with T-Mobile paying $17.5 million for their series of outages.
If the FCC concludes the outage AT&T outage preventable, the telecom giant may be stuck with exorbitant fines.
As of 10:30pm EST on Wednesday, all 911 services have been restored for AT&T customers across all of the affected areas.
This was not the first time that such an outrage had occurred. In June 2018, AT&T agreed to pay a whopping $5.25 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission over two 911 outages in March and May 2017. As part of the settlement, the company also holds itself responsible for implementing proactive system changes to slow down the impact of future 911 outages, improve processes so that 911 call centers could be easily notification in case there are future outages later on. The company would be also provide compliance reports regularly and ensure that their mechanism of sharing information remains reliable.
Common causes of power outage
There can be multiple reasons for the outbreak of power outage. Some of these are as follows:
Telephone networks are susceptible to natural phenomena which are beyond control of any human or technology. These calamities can include wind, freezing rain, lightning, iced-up lines, snow and wildlife which happen to cause a majority of power failures. Another problem might be that of the tree branches which might come in contact with the power lines can cause an outage.
There are times when there are accidental outages due to human error. It can happen suddenly when someone is working over the ladder or antenna and is too close to the power lines. Sometimes, hitting the buried line when someone is digging the ground can also cause this issue. Another reason for these outages can be traffic accidents in case the power equipment gets hit or damaged due to clashes.
There can always be problems with connectors, cables, switches, transformers, and other types of equipment which can trigger an outage suddenly.
In order to conduct maintenance or repair work, the interrupt service might be initiated. However, the interruptions are scheduled to minimum and mainly during the time when there are lesser issues.
Using power stations to charge batteries during outage
The batter system on the power stations that are available today have replaced anode in lithium-ion batteries with titanium dioxide gel. Titanium Dioxide is a common addition in sunscreen and is used as an additive in food as it is economic, safe and easily found in soil. It also speeds up the chemical reactions and helps in charging the phones fast.
These batteries last longer and much better than the lithium ion ones for multiple reasons. First they have a good shell life, and second they reduce the generation of toxic waste due to disposed batteries. The technology is easy to manufacture as you just need to replace the gel with minimal changes in the procedure and equipment.
How charging stations are suitable during outage?
Emergency Phone charging station are becoming highly popular across the world as they provide rapid charging facility for multiple devices. These are highly convenient for the people who want an instant charging solution due to unavailability of power in their region. Several service providers have started venturing into this technology in order to provide convenience to people wherever they go. Some of the biggest advantages of using the charging stations are as follows:
Ease of use: These stations are extremely easy to use as they just need to be installed and the devices can be charged instantly without any further complex process.
Availability: The charging stations have become advanced and there are wide ranges of the same available to public for use.
Fast Charging Capabilities: People get access to fast charging capabilities which is highly convenient as they do not need to wait for long hours to get their drained battery fully charged up.
Ways in Which You Can Maximize the Battery Life of your Phones During Outage
Here are some of the ways in which you maximize the battery life of your phone when you are facing an outage in your region:
- Utilize Charging Stations: You will easily find advanced charging stations in your region which provide instant charging facilities and are highly convenient. These are highly improved versions and also increase the speed of charging. Moreover, the in-built mechanism of these charging outlets is such that the charging performance gets improved immediately.
- Partially charging the phones: Partial charging is highly effective when it comes to charging the lithium-ion batteries. The overall lifecycle also gets improved with the smartphone batteries. As the battery starts getting empty, it tends to draw current constantly even when it is operating at a very low voltage. The value of voltage suddenly increases when you start charging the phone. The charging gets leveled off between 60-70 percent as the battery capacity tends to become full.
- Avoid idle charging: Charging the phone overnight might create a lot of problems for your phone. It can drain its life if you leave it on charging for a long duration of time. The internal structure of the phone might also get damaged due to excess dissipation of heat.
How to handle sudden outages?
- Leave an Outgoing Message
If you have no access to any charging source, then it is recommended that you leave an outgoing message and share you situation and location on the same. Turn the phone off immediately when you do so. Check it periodically in case there are any return messages. Avoid turning the phone on-off again and again as that might use the phone power to a significant extent. It is best to check your phone within a gap of hours to save the battery as much as possible. Minimize the use of phone in such a situation otherwise it might be difficult for you reach out to the required people if the outage continues for a long time.
- Use Text Messaging through SMS
Text messages are easy to pass on than the voice call. SMS enables brief messaging where you can inform the concerned person regarding the sudden issue. Make sure that you keep the message and do not increase the characters to the specified limit otherwise the message might turn into an MMS or EMS causing you to connect with the data network and consuming more battery power which can suddenly discharge it off. It would be best if you turn of the wireless data services as these tend to drain the device at a fast pace.
- Turn on the “Airplane Mode” on your Phone
Cell phones consume a lot of battery power and when they tend to be connected to cell tower for signal transmission. It is best to turn on the “Airplane Mode” during the outage as then the phone will consume less power and work for longer hours. Moreover, you will be able to use the regular features of the phone such as notes, camera, video recordings, among others easily.
- Make use of Backup Battery or Charger
These are small and portable battery charging options which have a limited charging capacity. The backups might take up at least 5-6 hours to completely charge in the power bank. But they are highly convenient during short-term outage and easy to carry as well.
High Capacity External Batteries
These are slightly on the expensive side, however, if you are looking for an efficient solution, then these should be on your list. You can find several brands that offer external batteries that are suitable charging phones, laptops, and other devices. The battery is small – the size of a card in a deck but is extremely powerful. It would sail through the long outages easily.
AA Battery Chargers
You can easily find them in the outlet stores as well as online. Ask the vendor for an USB emergency AA battery charger which is suitable for mobile phone. This needs a USB cable, to connect the battery with the mobile phone. It is cost-effective and goes on for long hours. Plug the phone to the batteries and it would be charged automatically.
Portable solar powered battery chargers
Solar powered battery are costly but they are the most suitable as you need the natural resource – the sun to get the battery powered. It can easily charge phone and other electronic device within two to three hours when the sun is at its brim. It has a built-in solar panel and comes with an electric outlet and a USB cable to build up the connection. The internal lithium-ion battery charges within 5 hours in direct sunlight. The drawback to such batteries is only that they do not work efficiently during stormy or cloudy weather.
On a final note, outages are common in several regions but keeping yourself prepared with the help of Storm battery powered charging station for the worst of the situation can help you significantly. It is recommended that you take the right measures to prevent yourself from any trouble.