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Statewide South Dakota 911 outage caused by hurricane in southern US, provider says • South Dakota Searchlight

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Statewide South Dakota 911 outage caused by hurricane in southern US, provider says • South Dakota Searchlight


A second statewide 911 outage this year is suspected to have been caused by Hurricane Beryl making landfall in Texas on Tuesday night and damaging network infrastructure, according to South Dakota’s 911 telecommunications provider Lumen, formerly known as CenturyLink. 

Investigations into the cause are still ongoing, said spokesman Matthew Villarreal.

“Our techs worked hard to fix an intermittent disruption affecting some customers’ ability to reach 911 in South Dakota and parts of Nebraska,” Villarreal said in an emailed statement. “We appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding.”

South Dakota signed its contract with Lumen for “Next Generation 911 services” in 2019 and has since renewed the contract until 2029. The contract is for up to $36.33 million.

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Lumen is headquartered in Louisiana, with network infrastructure running throughout the country. April’s statewide 911 outage in South Dakota was caused by a company installing a light pole in Kansas City, Missouri, the company said at the time.

In addition to the statewide outages, an outage in January disrupted 911 service in southeastern South Dakota, leaving customers in Lincoln, Union, Miner and Minnehaha counties unable to call 911 with a landline for hours, according to reporting from Siouxland Proud.

This week’s hurricane also caused an AT&T network outage impacting 911 calls in Texas and Louisiana.

Company with $36 million SD 911 contract says outage caused by Missouri light pole installation

Sioux Falls residents were without 911 services for about six hours between two outages Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning, said Michael Gramlick, Sioux Falls assistant fire chief and director of Metro Communications. The outage affected hundreds of calls for emergency services throughout South Dakota.

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Gramlick said the state’s largest city was “immediately aware” of the outage, and its Metro Communications took steps learned from April’s outage to troubleshoot and keep 911 services up and running, including alerting residents to call a non-emergency number or text 911. 

The city had 522 calls for service (including text messages and calls to the non-emergency number) during the outage — twice as many calls as a typical day. Many were “test calls” by residents, Gramlick added, and all calls received a call back from 911 services.

The two outages are forcing 911 communications offices — both locally and at the state level — to reevaluate redundancy efforts, Gramlick said.

“We don’t want to believe that this is a regular occurrence, but our job is to plan for those occurrences,” Gramlick said. 

Stephanie Olson, deputy director of operations for Pennington County 911, said the western side of the state experienced a similar outage timeline. Staff in the dispatch center were notified of the first outage Tuesday night by the state 911 coordinator, but noticed the second outage themselves.

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“We can see when someone is attempting to call 911, but then our phone system doesn’t ring, so we know there’s a problem with the phone system,” Olson said. The county called back 32 residents when the initial call didn’t come through.

Residents calling from Verizon and AT&T phones were calling a dead line, Olson explained, while some T-Mobile and landline phones were diverted to alternate 911 centers in Canada and Colorado that handle misrouted calls.

“We’re learning to continue educating our staff and citizens on the capabilities of 911 and that text is available. That was up and running all night,” Olson said. “If they call and can’t get through, we have redundancies in place.”

State agency to probe why 911 network backup systems failed to work

The Federal Communications Commission announced after this year’s earlier statewide outage it would investigate recent outages across the country. The FCC recently declined to provide an update on the investigation to South Dakota Searchlight.

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“As a general practice, we don’t comment on investigations,” an FCC spokesperson said in an email.

After a 2020 outage in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and North Carolina, the commission investigated whether Lumen, in addition to three other companies, failed to deliver 911 calls and timely notify public safety customers. In a settlement, Lumen agreed to implement a compliance plan and pay a $3.8 million civil penalty.

Lumen serves the Omaha area and some other eastern Nebraska counties. The company is being investigated there for recent outages in 2023 and earlier this year, according to the Nebraska Examiner.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety, which manages the state contract with Lumen, did not issue a news release about this week’s outage and did not respond to emailed questions from South Dakota Searchlight by the time this article published.

 

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South Dakota

National Civics Bee expanding into South Dakota

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National Civics Bee expanding into South Dakota


An annual competition that encourages young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities is expanding into South Dakota.

The National Civics Bee® (the Bee) provides participating middle school students an opportunity to flex their civics knowledge for a chance to win recognition and cash prizes.

Middle school students begin by entering a local essay competition. Judges from the participating community select 20 finalists to participate in a local quiz event testing civics knowledge. The top 3 winners from each competition advance to the South Dakota Chamber’s live event next spring, where they will compete for first, second, and third place prizes.

The first-place winner from each state will advance to a national competition hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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The Bee is co-sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry.



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Cover shoots for 2024 Pigskin Preview

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Cover shoots for 2024 Pigskin Preview


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -It has been 244 days since the final whistle sounded in the Dakota Dome and the Lincoln Patriots were crowned 11-Triple-A State Football Champions.

And with 42 days until our first Football Friday of 2024 we can safely start to say it’s football season when it’s time to shoot the cover of the Pigskin Preview!

Our 12 cover kids, 10 from South Dakota, one from Northwest Iowa and one from Southwest Minnesota, came dressed in their gameday best this morning to Howard Wood Field and brought either their blue steel or grins for the cover photo of our upcoming 26th edition.

Those who go on the cover are considered to be among the top senior players in the region so it’s quite an achievement and, since the Preview spans three decades, there is plenty of history that comes with it, be it representing your town or even your own family.

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The magazine with previews of teams throughout South Dakota, Northwest Iowa and Southwest Minnesota will be out later next month and we’ll have details on where you can pick it up in your town on-air and on Dakota News Now.com in the weeks ahead.

Our Pigksin Preview season preview special will air on Dakota News Now on Wednesday, August 21st ahead of the season’s first Football Friday on August 23rd.



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Tribe disbands security task force, cites financial struggles • South Dakota Searchlight

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Tribe disbands security task force, cites financial struggles • South Dakota Searchlight


FORT THOMPSON — The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has disbanded a security task force formed a year ago after the homicide of a young man in Fort Thompson.

Task force members were not sworn law enforcement officers, but responded to public safety incidents to de-escalate situations and provide aid.

The Crow Creek tribe doesn’t have its own police force. Many of South Dakota’s tribes do have their own police departments, but Crow Creek is among the tribes without one.

Crow Creek Tribal Chairman Peter Lengkeek said the hope was to transition the task force into a federally funded, tribally managed police force. 

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“That was one of the goals of this,” said Lengkeek, who added that the tribe remains interested in moving toward a local force.

Noem’s ‘banish the cartels’ obscures statewide drug problem, tribal leaders say

Officers with the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Office of Justice Services provide law enforcement services for Crow Creek and the neighboring Lower Brule Reservation. But Crow Creek leaders have argued that BIA officers aren’t always able to respond to calls in a timely fashion. The tribe declared a state of emergency after the killing of a young man in 2023 and launched its task force. 

Task force members were paid by the tribe and received training from a private security firm headquartered on the Pine Ridge Reservation. 

The dissolution of the task force follows the election of three new members last month to the tribe’s seven-member council. Lengkeek, who retained his seat, confirmed this week that the security task force has been disbanded. 

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In May, Lengkeek told South Dakota Searchlight he’d hoped to be able to fund the force through the tribe’s marijuana dispensary business and its farming operations. But he also said that “we need to get some funding” to keep the force going.

This week, Lengkeek said the endeavor was not fiscally sustainable without federal support.

Lengkeek said he met with the state’s congressional delegation, and “made them well aware of the situation in the state of emergency and asked them to take the state of emergency where it needs to go for consideration and funding.”

“None of this has happened and no communication has come back to the tribe on the status of this,” Lengkeek said.

Congressional reaction

The Department of Interior’s BIA, Lengkeek said, has yet to address the issue. Questions sent by South Dakota Searchlight to the BIA on the matter early this week had not been returned as of Friday.

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Members of the state’s congressional delegation have addressed public safety in tribal areas directly in several forums and formats over the past year.

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson and Republican Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for more public safety funding for tribes in a June 2023 letter. 

Rounds sent another letter to Interior in December, and another to the Government Accountability Office in March, in that case asking a series of pointed questions about budgets and calls for service he said have been left unanswered by Interior. In April, he sent a letter requesting a meeting on a regional BIA law enforcement training center, and he signed on to a bipartisan letter from senators in May asking for a budget increase for tribal public safety.

Also in May, he talked about tribes setting up their own ad hoc security forces during a congressional hearing.

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek, left, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Clyde Estes, right, with U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, in November 2023. (Courtesy of Rep. Johnson’s office)

“In response to the police shortages, some residents of tribal communities have even resorted to establishing citizen patrols to look out for crime,” Rounds told Assistant Interior Secretary Bryan Newland during a May oversight hearing by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

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Rep. Johnson had a virtual meeting with Crow Creek leadership last August. A spokesperson for his office pointed out that while the emergency declaration had no specific ask for funding, Johnson has also pushed for a regional law enforcement training center, and has called for a congressional field hearing on tribal land. 

“Tribal communities are desperate for relief … The federal government [should honor] the commitment we made and work to meet the law enforcement needs of Indian Country,” Johnson said in a press release on the field hearing request.

Johnson’s office also referenced letters to the House Interior Appropriations Committee that directly referenced public safety emergency declarations from Crow Creek and the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Backdrop of controversy

The launch of Crow Creek’s task force came about seven months before Gov. Kristi Noem gave a speech to lawmakers linking illegal border crossings to alleged drug cartel activity on reservations. Lengkeek and other tribal leaders pushed back on the speech and Noem’s later comments suggesting that some tribal leaders are “personally benefiting” from a drug cartel presence on their lands.

Yolanda Aguilar, Crow Creek tribal secretary, was a member of the task force and remains a member of the tribe’s suicide response team, a volunteer group that came before the security task force and will continue on in its wake. 

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Tribal members divided about banning Noem, united in need for better public safety

Aguilar said it’s unfortunate that the task force is over, but said she and other members won’t waste their training. If she sees a situation and she feels that she can help, she doesn’t plan to ignore it. 

“I’m still going to help out,” she said. “It’s about being a good neighbor.”

Jennifer Wounded Knee, who lives near the location of the 2023 homicide that preceded the task force’s creation, said it’s a shame the group has disbanded. Wounded Knee didn’t see it as an adequate replacement for law enforcement, but it helped.

“When they would drive by, people would kind of disperse,” Wounded Knee said.

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Fort Thompson resident Alphonso Drapeau said in the end, the force wasn’t able to move the needle on violence in the community.

“We’ve still got gang violence over here,” Drapeau said.

 

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