The Federal Communications Commission plans to introduce new rules to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of 9-1-1 communications networks during disasters in the wake of a storm last summer that left Northern Virginia without 9-1-1 service, the federal agency said in a news release last week.
“These failures are unacceptable and the FCC will do whatever is necessary to ensure the reliability of 9-1-1," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
The announcement late last week coincides with the regulatory agency's release of a report (attached with this story) about the 9-1-1 service failure June 29 to 30, after the derecho storm hit Northern Virginia and other parts of the country.
The derecho that struck Northern Virginia June 29 left the area without 9-1-1 service from 7:36 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 30. The 9-1-1 service was completely out, Fairfax County said. Emergency service for the next three days, was sporadic, Fairfax County noted in its emergency information blog.
"Even in the context of a storm like the derecho, a large-scale failure of communications –particularly 9-1-1-related communications –is unacceptable, and action must be taken to prevent similar outages in the future," FCC's report says.
New rules could include "ensuring that serviceproviders: conduct periodic audits of 9-1-1 circuits; maintain adequate backup power at central offices and follow regular maintenance and testing procedures; have adequate network monitoring links; and have a more specific obligation to notify 9-1-1 call centers of breakdowns of 9-1-1 communications," the report says.
Fairfax County "Pleased" With Report
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova — who with other county officials submitted comments to the FCC investigation detailing how the outage impacted Fairfax County and calling for improvements — said late last week she is pleased with the FCC's response and report.
“This report validates Fairfax County’s strong concerns about Verizon’s performance following last year’s derecho,” Bulova wrote on the county's emergency information blog. “It is essential that public safety communications services function at the highest level without interruption. The kind of breakdown that the FCC report addresses must never happen again.”
“Fairfax County is pleased that the FCC so quickly investigated this event and issued its report a short six months later,” said Steve Souder, director of the Department of Public Safety Communications, Fairfax County’s 9-1-1 Center.
“A person may only need to call 9-1-1 once, but it could be the most important call of their life. 9-1-1 must be available to all residents at all times regardless of weather conditions," Souder said. "The inability of our residents to be able to contact 9-1-1 for emergency services is unacceptable.”
Anthony Melone, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Verizon, issued a statement last week after the FCC report was released, saying the company takes seriously its roll in "the 911 ecosystem," and it has "acted diligently and decisively to resolve the operational and communications issues that arose after the June 2012 derecho."
Among the steps Melone said the company has taken:
- "We've resolved the issues that caused the generator failures in our Arlington and Fairfax offices and spurred 911-service issues in the wake of the June derecho."
- "We've completed backup-power system audits of all critical Verizon 911 facilities in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., and we are resolving issues as needed."
Melone said Verizon's performance during Hurricane Sandy in late October "demonstrated the substantial progress we've made."
Verizon reported $1.59 billion in profits, a 16 percent increase, for its third quarter in 2012 and a revenue of $29 billion, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
For more information on the 9-1-1 failure and the derecho, see these Patch stories:
- Questions Surround Failure of 911 System After Storm
- 911 Failure: Bulova Proposes Task Force
- Fairfax County Files FCC Report Following Derecho 911 Outage
- Verizon: Generator Failures Caused Service Loss During Derecho
- Feds Want Your Comments About Derecho 911 System Collapse
- Congressmen Call on FCC to Prevent Future 911 Failures