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Verizon Failures Led To June's Extended 911 Outage

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Residents in parts of Northern Virginia had trouble accessing 911 emergency systems after a strong storm ripped through the region June 29.
Jonathan Wilson
Residents in parts of Northern Virginia had trouble accessing 911 emergency systems after a strong storm ripped through the region June 29.

Verizon is acknowledging widespread failures in its 911 systems in Northern Virginia during and after the "derecho" storm that struck the region in June, the Associated Press reports. 

The company found large scale failures in its 911 emergency backup system during the derecho storm on June 29, according to a scathing report expected to be presented to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Verizon did not know the system was out in Fairfax County until the county alerted it, the report and Verizon officials say.

Fairfax County 911 director Steve Souder says Verizon lost power at a key facility in Arlington, which caused the whole system to crash.

"The problem was that it switched to the batteries, but it didn t go to the generator, so consequentially and unbeknownst to them, they are running on battery when they think they're running on generator," says Souder.

The emergency call system remain out for more than 24 hours after the storm, forcing Fairfax County and Arlington County officials to advise residents to report to fire stations in person if they needed to report an emergency. 

Verizon also admits in the report that there were problems with Arlington's 911 system during the storm's aftermath — something the company had previously denied.  Drained batteries, faulty generators and a failure of staff to fully explore the problem contributed to delays in restoring full 911 service, the report says. 

The company also erred when it decided to treat the problem as a service complaint rather than a large scale outage, a Verizon official tells the AP. Verizon is now auditing backup power systems throughout the was region. 

A more detailed explanation will be presented to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments this fall.

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