Fairfax County Responds to the FCC Report on the Derecho-related 9-1-1 Outages

The Federal Communications Commission today announced plans to launch a rulemaking to strengthen the reliability and resiliency nationwide of 9-1-1 communications networks during major disasters.

The widespread outages and disruptions to 9-1-1 services in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions  as a result of the 2012 derecho storm impacted more than 3.6 million people and led to the in-depth FCC inquiry into what went wrong, and what steps should be taken to better ensure public safety. This inquiry included an in-depth investigation, public comment and analysis culminating in the report, “The Impact of the June 2012 Derecho on Communications and Services: Report and Recommendations.”

“… the derecho provided a snapshot of the reliability and readiness of a portion of the nation’s communications infrastructure in the face of unanticipated disasters – and it revealed considerable flaws in the resiliency planning and implementation of the primary 9-1-1 network providers in the affected region,” according to the report.

“Here’s the bottom line,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “We can’t prevent disasters from happening, but we can work relentlessly to make sure Americans can connect with emergency responders when they need to most.”

Fairfax County Response to the Report

The June 29 derecho storm hit our community hard. From 7:36 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 30, 9-1-1 service was completely out; for the next three days, service was sporadic. As a result of this critical outage, Fairfax County submitted official comments to the FCC investigation detailing what happened, suggestions for Verizon to improve its service and exhibits to show supporting documentation/actions.

“This report validates Fairfax County’s strong concerns about Verizon’s performance following last year’s derecho,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “It is essential that public safety communications services function at the highest level without interruption. The kind of breakdown that the FCC report addresses must never happen again.”

“Fairfax County is pleased that the FCC so quickly investigated this event and issued its report a short six months later,” said Steve Souder, director of the Department of Public Safety Communications, Fairfax County’s 9-1-1 Center. “A person may only need to call 9-1-1 once, but it could be the most important call of their life. 9-1-1 must be available to all residents at all times regardless of weather conditions. The inability of our residents to be able to contact 9-1-1 for emergency services is unacceptable.”

About Fairfax County 9-1-1

The Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC), also known as Fairfax County 9-1-1, is a nationally recognized public safety communications center, the largest in the commonwealth of Virginia and one of the 10 largest in the United States. DPSC receives approximately 1 million calls requesting public safety service per year and dispatches units of the Fairfax County Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department and Sheriff’s Office. In addition to Fairfax County, DPSC is the designated 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) for the towns of Herndon and Vienna and the city of Fairfax.

Approximately 30 percent of 9-1-1 calls are received from traditional wire line phones, 69 percent from wireless/cellular telephones and 1 percent by Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephones. Fairfax County 9-1-1 is an accredited 9-1-1 center for emergency medical dispatch with the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services and is a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) 9-1-1 Call Center Partner. Learn more at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/.

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One response to “Fairfax County Responds to the FCC Report on the Derecho-related 9-1-1 Outages”

  1. Sharon L Masek says :

    When I contacted Verizon online to report my phone outage after the storm, they had the nerve to tell me the problem was in my home wiring – this when all of Fairfax Co. was out. They couldn’t even tell the truth at that time.