VIRGINIA

After derecho 911 outage, public safety officials promote landlines

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"We've made improvements, but there's no guarantee." That was the message from Verizon Wireless and local public safety officials Wednesday.

They presented a preliminary report to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on this summer's derecho that resulted in a massive 911 outage of Verizon's 911 service across much of Northern Virginia.

"One hundred and thirty-eight days ago, we in the nation's capital region experienced the largest, longest...911 outage in the 44 years that 911 has been in existence,' said Steve Souder, the public safety communications director for Fairfax County.

Verizon blames the failure on one of two backup generators in its Arlington and Fairfax offices.

Company officials say they're doing a better job communicating with 911 centers, and they're applying lessons learned.

Verizon Communications Region Vice President Tony Lewis said, "We knew that mistakes were made, but more importantly, we knew how to fix them."

Both public safety officials and mobile phone carriers acknowledge with wild weather, there's no guarantee mobile customers won't experience another outage.

But there is an alternative.

"One of the options is that they still maintain a hardwire, landline phone," said Glenn Roach, the emergency public safety communications CEO.

Roach added mobile phone carriers should be more transparent about potential vulnerabilities.

"The carriers have some responsibility to communicate the limitations, which they've been reluctant to do over the last few years," Roach continued.

Mobile phone carriers disagree.

"...it just becomes preparedness. If you have one battery, maybe you have two. But it's not about reversing yourselves and going backwards to an old technology. It's about learning what techs do today,' Lewis contended.

Public safety officials recommend more action by legislative bodies and regulatory bodies, like the FCC, to ensure each mobile carrier's 911 infrastructure and backup systems are fully functional through comprehensive audits.

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