The San Juan County Council declared a state of emergency in a special session today.

The declaration came four days after cell phones, internet access, and land lines were disrupted by the failure of a fiber optic cable.

By declaring a state of emergency, the council hopes to help public agencies cover costs brought on by the outage and qualify businesses for assistance.

People have been coping with the inconveniences, but it is affecting essential services, said Council Member Rick Hughes, who chaired the emergency meeting.

On Friday, 911 services were restored to all islands, but communication with the mainland remained limited. Officials cautioned that 911 calls should be made from land lines, because cell phone calls are processed on the mainland.

Instructions for placing emergency calls for San Juan Islands residents:

1. If you're near a land line phone, dial 911.
2. If you have a working cell phone, try dialing 360-378-4151 as you're moving towards nearest land line phone.
3. If cell phone doesn't work, dial 911 from nearest land line phone.
4. Stay alert for updates to this situation, but be careful with cell phone calls to 911 until cable is fully repaired.

The council will open their conference room Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for public internet access.

In Friday Harbor, the doctor's office on Front Street and the Bean Cafe on First Street have working wifi that is available for public use.

CenturyLink is responsible for the disrupted services and has been working to restore access, but has no firm estimate for when they'll complete the work. Limited service to the mainland maybe available in the next two days, according to the company.

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