WASHINGTON – It’s been a year since the derecho hit the region with a double whammy — power outages and a loss of 911 service in Northern Virginia.
“On the anniversary of the derecho of last year, I think a lot has happened, and actually we discovered a lot as a result of the derecho. We discovered weaknesses in the Verizon system in our 911 system,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova.
She’s pleased with the way the company has responded.
“I expect that we’re going to see some pretty dramatic improvements in the system as a result of what happened a year ago,” she said.
“We’ve done a number of things to check our backup power,” Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said.
“We have conducted intensive, comprehensive audits where we go into our switching centers for example that house 911 equipment. Equipment that helps route 911 calls to the appropriate 911 center, say in Fairfax County or Arlington for example. We’ve checked the generators. If we found any issues with them we corrected them. Same with the batteries that are there.”
He says Verizon has changed procedures so that problems are identified and solved more quickly, and the company has improved the way it communicates with local governments and 911 call centers.
Asked if more changes are coming, Mitchell says, “we’re not done.”
“What happened last June 29 was unacceptable,” Mitchell says.
“We recognize that, and that’s not what we’re about. That’s not how we do business normally, so we were very motivated to find out what happened and take steps to prevent that from happening again. I think we’ve come an awful long way over the past year,” he said.
In the wake of the 911 failures, Bulova said she thinks Verizon and other communications companies will be hit with new rules from the FCC.
“The evidence that they’ve provided suggest that when they do a final report that there will be definitive new expectations for providers like Verizon,” Bulova says.
Verizon has made a video about their work to strengthen 911 service:
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