Virginia and West Virginia were particularly hard hit during the intense June storm, with most of their 911 call centers experiencing partial or complete outages for several days.(Photo: Thinkstock)
Telephone companies' failure to provide sufficient backup power and
monitor networks properly directly contributed to "large-scale" outages
of communications at 911 call centers during the derecho storm last
June, according to a report expected to be released by the Federal
Communications Commission today.
As one of the most destructive
storms in U.S. history moved rapidly across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic
regions, 77 emergency call centers, serving more than 3.6 million
customers in six states, lost phone connections, including information
on call locations, the report says.
The communication networks
and services of 911 call centers are provided by large telephone
companies, including Verizon and Frontier.
Virginia and West
Virginia were particularly hard hit, with most of their 911 call centers
experiencing partial or complete outages for several days. "Isolated
breakdowns" also were reported in Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland and
Indiana, the FCC report says.
More than 2 million people in three
states - Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio - were unable to reach 911
after 17 call centers lost service completely.
affected by the outages filed formal reports with the FCC following the
storm, and the agency launched an investigation into the causes.
with the report's findings, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will also
"propose measures to improve reliability of the existing 911 networks,"
including providing adequate backup power and on-site audits, improving
monitoring and ensuring that phone companies better alert 911 centers of
In Northern Virginia, FCC investigators found phone
circuits that were powered by single central offices. With no working
generators at the offices, the entire system collapsed.
17% of the generators belonging to one company - the FCC didn't disclose
the company's name - didn't work properly. "They didn't maintain them
or test them properly," the agency said.
Some companies didn't
have information on the location of circuits that connect to call
centers because they hadn't conducted on-site audits.
Phone companies' network operations centers also missed outages because their "monitoring systems" failed to work.
local government officials also cited phone companies' failure to
promptly notify 911 centers. Fairfax County in Northern Virginia said
it took Verizon about three hours to notify the county that 911 was down
after the emergency line went out, according to a report in The Washington Post.
understands the critical role it plays in the 911 ecosystem. We take
this role seriously, and when an issue arises, we act quickly to
investigate, correct and apply any learnings across our system," Verizon
said in a statement.
Verizon says it has taken several steps to
improve its 911 call facilities, including backup power system audits of
"all critical Verizon 911 facilities in Virginia, Maryland and
The company also says it "improved communications with 911 center directors and other government officials during emergencies."