UPDATE: Phone service has been restored and all phone lines are back in operation, Rhea County dispatch announced.


PREVIOUS STORY: Rhea County's 911 and non-emergency lines are temporarily out of service due to severed cables, the local dispatch announced.

Rhea County dispatch says AT&T is currently working on the issue but hasn't provided a timetable of when the problem will be fixed.

According to the 911 director, all calls are being sent to Meigs County dispatchers who then relay the information to Rhea County.

Rhea County resident Brian Pankey said, "If it's an emergency, you know timing is everything."

He has concerns about the 911 phone lines being down. He believes it can be a matter of life or death.

"A wreck with injuries, a robbery, just anything, just any malicious act or anything that's going to require emergency help whether it's police, ambulance or fire department. Time is critical."

Quick communication is key in emergency situations, and he thinks that can easily get mixed up with the calls being routed to another county.

"They call them, then they call them, then they call back here. I'm just, I'm not really comfortable with it," Pankey tells us.

Pankey says he understands that because he works for a power company and deals with outages.

Pankey explained, "When you're dealing with the fiber, whatever the case may be, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of strenuous work, I've watched them so I know."

Pankey wants people to spread the word about phone lines being down for an extended period of time so they can be prepared if an emergency comes up.

"They're used to the norm. Right now this is out of the norm. They need to know, people need to know."

In the meantime, 911 calls will be rerouted to Meigs County and then sent back to Rhea County.

Rhea County dispatch says to call (423) 827-7319, (423) 827-6096 or (423) 827-4511 if you're unable to get through to 911 or if you have a non-emergency situation.

Dispatch asks that non-emergency calls be kept to a minimum so that the 911 calls can take priority.

Dispatch says if an emergency response is needed, call the numbers listed.

This is a developing story.