Council of Governments' Report Urges Actions to Ensure Reliable and Uninterrupted 9-1-1 Service

Mar 13, 2013

Click here for COG Steering Group's final report on Verizon 9-1-1 service outages March 2013 (9 MB pdf, 271 pgs)

WASHINGTON – The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors approved a report calling on Verizon to take actions to prevent outages to 9-1-1, such as the one that occurred during and after the June 29, 2012 Derecho storm.

The report recommended Verizon conduct a comprehensive audit of its entire 9-1-1 infrastructure, provide subject matter experts to 9-1-1 agencies to ensure network reliability, and review communications plans to keep the public informed of any service issues and outages. The report also urged Verizon’s regulators, the Federal Communications Commission and state commissions, to establish service level agreements to ensure 9-1-1 reliability and continuity.

“The report of our steering group helped spur investigations into 9-1-1 outages at the state and federal levels,” said Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, who first called on COG to examine the outages soon after the Derecho. To ensure reliable and uninterrupted 9-1-1 service, she said regulators must have the force of law to make sure Verizon implements best practices rather than rely on voluntary compliance.

Representatives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) addressed the Board noting that COG’s report helped inform their efforts. On March 20, the FCC will consider a notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the reliability of 9-1-1 service nationwide. The SCC said Verizon should provide quarterly reports to Commission staff and an annual status report to the Commission.

The report found that the Derecho outage was caused by the loss of commercial power and the subsequent failure of one of the two backup generators in each of Verizon’s Arlington and Fairfax Central Offices. It also noted improper maintenance and incident response contributed to the outage.

Steve Souder, Director of the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications, who led the COG group that prepared the report, said the Verizon 9-1-1 outages after the Derecho and the ensuing public and industry reaction has been “one of the most significant events in the history of enhanced 9-1-1 services in the United States.” 

Following the storm, the 9-1-1 centers in Fairfax County, Prince William County, and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park experienced a complete failure of Verizon’s 9-1-1 and telephone services, while additional jurisdictions experienced partial failure of these services.

Souder also noted Verizon has taken steps to address issues and has worked closely with the 9-1-1 directors following the Derecho. In addition to approving the report, the COG Board agreed to establish a permanent committee of 9-1-1 directors to continue working with Verizon and the regulatory bodies. 

 

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