What to do in the DC Area if You’ve Been hit by the AT&T Outage and Need 911

WTOP NEWS: Many Americans across the country woke up to an unpleasant surprise Thursday: widespread cellular outages, mostly on AT&T.

According to Downdetector.com tens of thousands of people are without cell service.

AT&T alone had more than 70,000 outage reports shortly before 9 a.m. But there could be many more, since Downdetector tracks self-reported outages.

The core concern for many is if people need to call 911 for an emergency, because those calls may not be received during the outage.

There are a few options for those in the D.C. area.

In Fairfax County — if you’re having trouble calling on your cell — try a landline if you still have one. Loudoun County has the same advice.

Prince William County says if your 911 call does not go through, you can call (703) 792-6500 to report an emergency.

Montgomery County advised using a landline if possible, or text. If you’re unsure how to do that, Montgomery County has instructions online. The county’s Emergency Communications Center is asking “that people NOT call 911 to test their cell phones. Please only dial 911 for an actual emergency.”

Frederick County had specific advice: “Anyone in Frederick County having cell service problems can use the phone’s SOS/Emergency call function. This feature can piggyback off other networks nearby to potentially connect through another working cell service provider,” the county said in an email.

One piece of good news is that texts to 911 are not impacted.

D.C.’s Office of Unified Communications tweeted that “there is no indication that DC is affected. We will continuously monitor and provide updates as appropriate.”

“Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them. We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored,” AT&T said in a statement.

Some iPhone users have seen SOS messages displayed in the status bar on their cellphones. The message indicates that the device is having trouble connecting to their cellular provider’s network, but it can make emergency calls through other carrier networks, according to Apple Support.

So far, no reason has been given for the outages.

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