Derecho-related outages put 911 system under scrutiny
What is in this article?
In the aftermath of the derecho-related 911 outages, Verizon has met with both the FCC and public-safety officials to determine the problems that each PSAP faced, so the issues can be addressed.
“We immediately began correcting the issues we identified, and we’ve begun a region-wide review of the entire 911 design infrastructure to identify and protect against areas of vulnerability,” Anthony Lewis, Verizon’s mid-Atlantic region vice president, wrote in a letter that appeared in the Washington Post. “We also understand the importance of communicating with 911 centers and the public during extraordinary events such as the derecho, and — while we did communicate with both — we can and will do better.”
Several public-safety sources indicated that Verizon has been cooperative in meetings on the subject of 911 resiliency since the derecho incident. One of the changes that has come from these meetings should help prevent widespread outages from happening again in similar situations, Forgety said.
“Verizon is going to put in systems that prioritize load, when they’re running on backup power,” he said. “So, for example, they give priority to switching facilities — specifically, selective-routing facilities — and 911 service, rather than lighting and air conditioning that isn’t necessary to keep the switches up.”
Despite such initiatives, many PSAPs are considering alternatives to simply relying on a single carrier to deliver 911 calls to them.
“The design of Arlington County’s 911 Emergency Call Center was based on what were believed to be state-of-the-art concepts,” Joseph Pelton, chair of the Arlington, Va., Information Technology Advisory Commission (ITAC), wrote in a filing to the FCC. “The access to 911 response services is provided by Verizon as the designated carrier from two different exchanges, for purposes of diverse routing, to ensure 911 service even if one access route were severed or otherwise failed.
“We are thus quite concerned that Verizon ‘s commercial service failed despite these precautions and resulted in major telecom and network facility outages of extended duration, which is most unacceptable with regard to county emergency services.”
Indeed, the lack of route diversity and flexibility in some of the emergency-calling systems is a significant concern to the FCC, according to Turetsky.
“There shouldn’t be a central office that has all of the 911 circuits going through it — without diversity — for a single area,” he said. “A central office going out shouldn’t wipe out 911 service for 1 million or 2 million people. It’s a question we’re investigating, at least in this situation.
“If [911 systems are] not suitably designed, and they’re not suitably monitored, and there isn’t an appropriate kind of redundancy and other considerations that go into design and operation, we’re going to continue to have problems.”