When a transformer fire in the District of Columbia and the resulting loss of power damaged a Sprint switch on August 16, customers across the region were impacted. Many wireless customers in the District, Maryland, and Virginia were prevented from making calls to wireline numbers—including to 9-1-1.
In a statement before the COG Board of Directors at its September meeting, Sprint’s Regional President Brian K. Hedlund told area officials that fuel delivery system issues caused the switch’s backup power generators to shut down. The secondary backup power source—battery power—kept the switch operational for hours. However, this secondary backup was eventually shut down to prevent overheating and damaging the system.
Although Hedlund says the company communicated with its customers, public safety, and the community throughout the outage, it is looking for ways to “streamline and expedite” communications moving forward. No fatalities were reported due to customers’ inability to reach first responders.
“A technical snafu will happen again,” Hedlund told the COG Board. “What I can assure you, is that we’ll be proactive in getting information together in a timely way.”
Sprint plans to maintain an ongoing dialogue with officials on COG’s 9-1-1 Directors’ Committee; representatives already participated in a September 9 meeting at the D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC).
9-1-1 outages have occurred in the region in the past, the result of weather events like the 2012 derecho and even equipment failure. COG and its 9-1-1 Directors’ Committee have made it a priority to improve the way jurisdictions and carriers handle these situations.
More: NBC Washington: Sprint, DC Area Leaders Discuss August 911 Issue