Kent State Campus unaffected by recent cell phone outage

Katelynn Chilson

The recent AT&T cell phone outage hit Kent State on Tuesday, Jan. 13, disabling 911 systems and creating an incident that Kent State officials had to handle. 

AT&T had a service outage that affected four counties in Ohio, including Portage County. Kent State students were notified that area AT&T cell towers were down. 

“I got a FlashAlert text and an email around 9 p.m. I didn’t even notice the service was down until I got the alerts,” said Megan Merle, sophomore early childhood education major.

Cell phone communication came to an immediate halt, and emergency service numbers were not available. 

Even though Kent State has an internal voice over Internet Protocol system that was not affected by the outage, the 911 systems were deactivated.

“The 911 system is dependent on AT&T, and it was disabled,” said Bill Buckbee, assistant chief of Kent State University Police Services. “We sent out FlashAlerts, emails and updated the website to direct emergency calls to a different number.”

However, the incident may not have caused much worry throughout the Kent community.

“No residents came to me with any questions or concerns,” said Levi Kidder, Centennial F resident assistant.

The campus also has “blue light” phones available for students to make calls in a case of any emergency. More than 30 of these phones are located throughout the campus.

The campus police department answers any emergency calls made from these “blue light” phones. Students can also call any number on campus by dialing the appropriate number on the list found at the emergency phone.

“Informing the community of the outage, keeping them informed and providing viable means to communicate the need for services, emergency and non-emergency,” are among the goals and objectives campus police set during this incident, Buckbee said. 

Every situation is different, and sometimes it isn’t possible to have an outlined plan for every emergency, but Kent State police have to be ready to address any type of problem. 

As a result, Kent State police have an emergency management plan in place that quickly organizes people and resources to get everyone in the right place to address the emergency.

Even when officers know the correct protocol for emergencies, Buckbee stresses the importance of personal preparedness.

“We rely on certain technologies that are far more vulnerable than many suspect, and unfortunately, any technology can fail,” Buckbee said. “Everyone should be prepared for an emergency and take personal responsibility for their own safety.”

For more information on individual emergency preparation, visit

Contact Katelynn Chilson at [email protected].