Council of Governments, Stakeholders Spur Historic Federal Communications Commission Rule to Ensure Reliable 9-1-1 Service

Dec 13, 2013

Washington, DC – In an historic action advocated by the Council of Governments, its stakeholders and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday adopted rules to help ensure that 9-1-1 calls across the nation are delivered during disasters. The action followed regional studies documenting the significant loss of 9-1-1 service in Northern Virginia during the June 2012 Derecho storm.

As a result, all telephone companies that provide 9-1-1 service must certify annually that they have implemented best practices including audits of their circuits, maintenance of central office backup power and reliable network monitoring systems.  Verizon, the service provider in much of metropolitan Washington, has acknowledged it role in the 2012 outages. The FCC adopted the recommendations developed by the Council, the Virginia State Corporation Commission and many Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPS,) the call centers which operate the 9-1-1 systems in Virginia.

Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, who called for the Council’s investigation of the 9-1-1 outages across the region, said the FCC action is historic and welcome.  “Residents of Virginia and every state for that matter, can now be confident that 9-1-1 service will be properly maintained and there when they need it. Our work combined the great technical knowledge of the call centers in Northern Virginia with the influence of the Council of Governments and the Commonwealth to make important progress for the entire country.”

Chuck Bean, Executive Director of the Council, said the FCC action proves again the “power of regional collaboration. With this new rule, we are securing our infrastructure in metropolitan Washington. The success with the FCC was built on solid analytics but the change happened because we spoke with a regional voice.”

The Commission began its formal rulemaking procedure last January after concluding that Verizon and other telephone companies had failed to provide adequate back-up power and monitor the transmission networks serving the 9-1-1 centers and were therefore responsible for the outages.
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“In an unprecedented move, the FCC’s action holds 9-1-1 service providers accountable for providing reliable and resilient 9-1-1 telecommunications to both citizens and the 9-1-1 Call Centers that handle such calls for service,”  said Captain Ted McInteer, Director of Prince William County Communications Center.

The FCC action also was called “the greatest overhaul of 9-1-1 resiliency requirements in the history of 9 -1-1,” by Steven Souder, Fairfax County’s Director of Public Safety Communications.

In addition to requiring regular audits and annual certifications of 9-1-1 service, the FCC rules now will impose deadlines and more specific requirements for notifying 9-1-1 call centers of outages.  The Commission also said it can follow up with service providers to address any deficiencies found in the certification process.

The full FCC report is located here.

COG's 9-1-1 report, Final Report of 9-1-1 Service Gaps During and Following the Derecho Storm, is located here.

 
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