Supervisor chair asks for probe of 911 failure

Hank Silverberg,

FAIRFAX, Va. – After Friday’s violent storm rolled through the D.C. area, there was a breakdown of the 911 emergency system that covers all of northern Virginia.

“This is people’s worst nightmare,” Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, tells WTOP.

Bulova says she will ask the Washington Area Council of Governments to take action on the failure.

Listen to updated comments from Bulova made Thursday below and to the right.

The 911 system, run by Verizon and based in Arlington, did not work for much of Saturday and Sunday, as millions of local residents were dealing with the aftermath of a ferocious storm which devastated the region’s power grid and blocked roads with downed trees.

“Something as critical as 911 needs to have redundancy, needs to have backup,” Bulova says.

The system came back online Monday, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says Verizon reports that all 911 systems are back to normal operations. But there has been a lack of communication between Verizon and local governments that needs to be discussed, Bulova says.

They knew something was wrong early Saturday at the Arlington Emergency operations center when the calls died down rapidly and they had trouble contacting neighboring jurisdictions.

Arlington Communications Commander John Crawford says the same type of assessment done after Sept. 11, when communications were spotty, should be done.

“What are the lessons here, what have we learned, what should we be doing going forward and right now, I think that’s a huge task for Verizon,” says Crawford.

Harry Mitchell with Verizon acknowledges that both their main system and backups failed Friday. He says the company will now look for design deficiencies going forward.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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