Northern Virginia 911 Centers Back On Line

11:08 PM, Jul 3, 2012   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, VA (WUSA) -- Perhaps even scarier than losing your power -- losing 911.
 
911 systems across Northern Virginia are all but fully restored after a massive communications blackout that fell over the region the morning after the storm.

But experts are still trying to figure out what to do to keep it from happening again.

"There is no number in America more depended on or recognized than 911. You need it in an emergency," says Fairfax County 911 Director Steve Souder. "And at the time we needed it most, it failed us."

At the height of the crisis, people were getting rapid busy signals, or just plain old busy signals. But when we ran a test call Tuesday afternoon with the approval of the 911 center director, a call taker picked it up on the second ring.

Souder blames damage to a Verizon switching and data center in Arlington for the blackout that hit Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William County as well. And Verizon blames damage to multiple facilities that took out both primary and backup systems.

"Kaboom. Just like that, after a clear blue sky, it was down," says Souder.

At the height of the crisis, people were urged to go to a fire station, a police station, or just flag someone down for help.

911 managers says Verizon is still trying to figure out exactly what caused the communications blackout -- which leaves it a long way from being able to promise it will never happen again. But that's what Fairfax's leaders are demanding. "This is the nation's capital," says Fairfax Board of Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova. "We have to be protected and we cannot have people calling 911 and getting no response whatsoever."

This is far from the first time that Verizon has failed to route 9-1-1 calls through to 911 centers. During last year's Carmageddon, 10-thousand emergency calls failed to go through in Montgomery and Prince George's County. And the Maryland PSC says Verizon failed to even tell emergency managers what was going on.

Emergency managers say the do not believe anyone died because they were unable to reach 911 after the latest storm. But they fear if it happens again, someone could.

Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com
Twitter: @BruceLeshan

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