The nation's capital could be hit by a 911 outage similar to the one that rocked Northern Virginia after June's devastating derecho storm, but communications executives assured city leaders Thursday that they are fixing the problem.
"We are taking a slow and plaintive view of every aspect of what happened, looking at why it happened ... to make sure that we are clear on what needs to be done," Anthony Lewis, Verizon's Mid-Atlantic region vice president, told the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee. "So what I say to you today is that we have deployed all the proper resources both [in] personnel and financial to assure you we are caring for this problem."
Verizon was largely blamed for the 911 outage after the June 29 storm that ripped through the region and left more than 1 million people without power. Residents who called 911 in Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties couldn't get through at times, even days after the storm -- and after the call centers were supposed to be back online.
The Verizon hub in Arlington that handles much of Northern Virginia's emergency communications switched to battery power after the storm knocked out the electricity, but the batteries failed after eight hours and the system didn't switch to a generator as expected.
Verizon is working on a report detailing what went wrong and what has been addressed. The Federal Communications Commission is also writing a report on communications failures in several states after the storm. But Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson expressed skepticism that the work being done would result in a failsafe solution.
"How can I be confident that we've got it fixed now when this has happened before?" he asked.
"My comment to you is that no -- we have in place the personnel, the equipment to ensure that through any storm, our [equipment] is going to be stable and operate the way it should," Lewis said. "Now, I can't promise to you that nothing ever will happen to the networks."
The District has suffered through phone line failures before, most notably following the 2011 earthquake and the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But unlike the outage in Northern Virginia, those were generally caused by the system being overloaded.