Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Verizon's 911 failures endanger Prince William County

Service Disrupted Four Times in Past Two Months
The first gap in service occurred May 28, when 911 calls to report a house fire in the 4500 block of Kingston Road in Dale City went unanswered, McGee said.

Jennifer Meyer, who lives across the street, said: "In the time that I watched the fire spread while listening to the phone ring, it went from a small fire to a fire that was throughout the entire top story of the house. If the 911 call had been answered promptly, the family that was living there might still be living there and their house might be reparable, instead of gutted." No one was injured in the fire.

An investigation by the fire department and Verizon found that "software issues" left the calls "trapped in the equipment," causing 911 service to be out for five minutes and 20 seconds.

To prevent future glitches, Verizon has agreed to submit its plans to the county in writing before starting work and have qualified technicians on hand to fix all types of equipment, McGee said.

The 911 service failed three more times in the next 15 days, McGee said. On July 4, supervisors at the communications center discovered the problem and reported it to Verizon, which reestablished service.

The investigation found that Verizon was notified about the disruption but did not notify the county. The 911 operators were pushed off-line, Verizon said, when a server replaced May 28 rebooted itself. Verizon replaced the data switch that had caused the reboot the next day and revised how it notifies the county of system problems.

This is the kind of disaster that can turn opinion against a company like no other.

My advice to localities is to award public safety contracts to members if IJIS, that way you know they understand the requirements of public safety.

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