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Manassas Park, PWC Leaders Want Answers About 911 Failure

Manassas Park councilman wonders if 911 failure after storm is linked to lack of maintenance. Meanwhile, the Prince William County supervisors ask Verizon for a full report on what exactly happened.

Manassas Park and Prince William County political leaders are asking questions and expect answers as to why the failed after Friday's that caused mayhem in the Washington D.C. area.

The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors ask Verizon, the provider of 911 services in Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, to investigate the outage.

Fairfax County supervisors, as well as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell are all asking questions about the lack of 911 service.

In Fairfax County, the emergency number was working less than 24 hours after the storm moved through the area.

Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park weren't so fortunate—911 services weren't restored until Monday— two full days after it failed.

On Saturday, city and county officials scrambled to let residents know through media and social media outlets of the failure and of the alternate office number to dial to be connected with emergency dispatchers. Officials also urged residents to go to the nearest fire or police station if they needed help.

"I believe that it is unacceptable, particularly if it is true that the cause is due a power failure at a Verizon facility, as has been reported elsewhere," Manassas Park Councilman Brian Leeper said. "I question whether the proper preventative maintenance checks and tests were being performed on the backup power generator for that facility.

As well, many installations of high criticality, and I would consider the facility responsible for 911 services to be a high criticality installation, have multiple generators just in case one does fail. I've worked in data centers, and I can tell you that every single time they had a power problem and the generators did not work, it was because of human error. They, like your vehicle, require fuel and maintenance. Like your vehicle, fail to give it either and it fails to work."

Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones also called the outage unacceptable and pressed for answers.

" ... Personally, I am extremely concerned. We cannot have the critical link between the citizens and the city's emergency response capability compromised. The lack of information, the duration of the outage, and the clear lack of back-up/redundancy have created an unacceptable situation.

I agree with (Fairfax County Supervisor) Sharon Bulova—an investigation is warranted.

Further, a clear plan to correct the problems that occurred needs to be developed in the next two weeks, and every action must have a hard completion date. This cannot be allowed to extend into the future to the point people begin to forget the significance of the outage. I believe the outage put citizens at risk who rely on the 911 service for emergency reporting and response—that is simply and plainly unacceptable."

Verizon officials told PWC Communications director Jason Grant that the problem was multi-faceted and it didn't exist in just one area of the network. 

From what he understands, Verizon's main trunk line coming out of Arlington experienced several problems, causing the failure, .

 “While we appreciate the efforts Verizon made to get the system back up and running, all efforts should be made to ensure that the critical 911 system does not fail in the future,” Prince William board of supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart said.

“We expect Verizon to conduct a full investigation into how the 911 service failed and offer solutions to better secure the system. It is imperative that residents of Prince William County and the entire Washington metro area never have to face such emergencies without the critical 911 service that can be the difference between life and death for those in need.”

Verizon's 911 system also failed Maryland residents during the severe snow storms of 2011. Many commuters were unable to contact 911 via their cell phones.

Concerned Citizen July 06, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Okay, so how did the city let us know of this failure? Quote: On Saturday, city and county officials scrambled to let residents know through media and social media outlets of the failure and of the alternate office number to dial to be connected with emergency dispatchers. Officials also urged residents to go to the nearest fire or police station if they needed help................................Did official vehicles go around with a loud speaker and drive thru neighborhoods alerting citizens? Did the city use the electronic signs on manassas drive/signal hill to alert residents? What about the school emergency phone system? did they take advantage of that system to at least notify parents of school age children of the lack of 911 capabilities? Were seniors (on the city wide alert program) notified of this 911 failure? This is a great learning experience for us...shows how unprepared we all are....

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