Simplified: The team at Metro Communications and the broader city communications team didn't miss a beat on Wednesday night when they realized the system that accepts 911 calls wasn't working. Here's a look at how their quick response set the tone for the entire state.

What happened?

At about 8 p.m. Wednesday night, Metro's team confirmed a 911 outage. They were able to notice it right away because of more sophisticated analytics in their new facility, Director Mike Gramlick said.

The dispatchers were unable to accept calls made directly to 911, but they could still receive calls made to the non-emergency number: 605-367-7000.

  • Immediately, the city's communication team drafted and sent a press release that was then used as a template statewide, according to Gramlick.
  • Shortly after, Emergency Manager Regan Smith said the city also sent out a wireless emergency alert.

By 10:38 p.m., everything was up and running again.

What went wrong?

According to South Dakota Searchlight, the outage was caused by a company installing a light pole in Kansas City, Missouri. (There's a lot more to that story – including a $36 million contract – highly recommend Makenzie Huber's full coverage if you want a deep dive.)

What went right?

Largely, the city's response.

Mayor Paul TenHaken lauded his team during a Thursday morning press conference, noting that their strategy for getting the message out was replicated in a lot of other areas that were also experiencing outages.

"You guys couldn't have run this any better," TenHaken said.

It appears to have worked because Metro Communications' call volume was almost right on the average it would typically be for a two-hour period.

  • The team received 112 calls – including 79 to the Metro number and 33 that came in as text messages to 911. That's just shy of the average call volume, which Gramlick said was 114.

What's the takeaway?

There are a couple:

  1. Make sure your phone is set up to receive emergency alerts. The AARP has a nice little how-to for you here. (Yes, sometimes I need my tech explained to me like I'm somebody's great-great-grandmother. It's fine.)
  2. Save Metro's number in your phone – a tip directly from Police Chief Jon Thum. It's 605-367-7000, and it's also a good number to have on-hand for any non-emergency law enforcement or public safety calls you might need to make in the future.