Fairfax County officials have filed a formal report with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding widespread 911 failures in the area during and after the June 29 derecho.
The rare and intense storm caused the deaths of four county residents and damaged more than 100 homes. According to a July report from the county, at roughly 10:30 p.m. on June 29.
But from 7:36 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 30, 911 services disappeared.
The county’s new comments to the FCC blame the 911 outage on the failure of Verizon’s backup power sources and damage to equipment in the area. These factors, combined with what the county deems “Verizon’s failure to give prompt and effective notice” of the failures, inhibited the county’s responsiveness.
“It is no small irony that the County’s ability to react to the 911 outage was delayed by the failure of one of the largest communications companies in America to communicate … with the county about the problems that caused the outage,” the report reads. “911 service is a service in which responsiveness is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.”
According to the county’s emergency blog, officials are also working regionally through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The ferocity of the derecho does not explain the 911 outage,” the report reads. “Instead, its relevance is as a reminder of the need for resilient and reliable 911 service. During and after a storm, and in any emergency or disaster, the loss of the public’s ability to contact emergency responders is most profoundly felt.
“Families in darkened homes crushed by fallen trees, motorists unable to get through roadways blocked by downed electric power lines, elderly residents in care facilities without power in temperatures over 90 degrees, and any other citizens in need of emergency services must be able to call 911 to seek assistance.”