Many Washington-area residents heard nothing but a busy signal or dial tone when they called 911 following the storm that slammed the region on June 29. Police and the Fire and EMS Department experienced difficulties with emergency call systems for days following the storm due to power outages.
Arlington Emergency Communications Center Deputy Commander of Operations Vanessa Gaymon described it as "organized chaos."
"This was a major, major catastrophic event," Gaymon said. "Especially in the sense that our partners, Fairfax, Alexandria and even beyond that, weren't able to get any [calls] either. Some jurisdictions were receiving our calls. We were receiving their calls."
Arlington reported its emergency call system went down the morning after the storm. The system was unstable for five days but was fully operational by Thursday.
"People expect to be able to dial 911 in a crisis, and they couldn't," Gaymon said. "It's scary to be in a crisis and not have at least a voice to talk to someone."
Fairfax County also learned its 911 line was completely down about 6 a.m. June 30, but it was operating at full capacity by Tuesday, according to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. Officials are looking into what went wrong with the system.
"We need a safety net should we again have a catastrophic occurrence, whether man-made or natural," Bulova said.
Prince George's County Police and Fire/EMS departments also showed signs of being affected by the storm as late as Friday. Phone lines gave a busy signal, and some officials used laptops and cellphones to communicate with the news media.
On Monday, PGPD spokeswoman Julie Parker confirmed the station was running off a generator and did not have access to the office computers or phones due to the power outages, but power began to return to the station Tuesday.
Arlington Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown said no one was hurt as a result of that downed system, but the county will be investigating to see where things went wrong.
"We had to think on the fly on how to resolve the issue," Gaymon said.
Examiner Staff Writers Aubrey Whelan and Jacob Demmitt contributed to this report.