Virginia officials press Verizon to fix 911 system

By |
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Northern Virginia officials said Tuesday that Verizon has to do more than apologize for the failure of 911 emergency service centers during June's derecho storm. The company needs to do -- or spend -- whatever is necessary to ensure that it doesn't happen again, they said.

"It doesn't help just to say, 'I'm sorry,' " said Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross, D-Mason. "You have to make the investment, put some money into it."

More than 2 million people in the Washington area were without 911 services during the massive storm, which also left millions without power.

Verizon at first adamantly denied that it was at fault for the loss of 911 service. Then the company changed its story in a new report that will be presented Wednesday to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

In the report, Verizon acknowledges that drained batteries, faulty generators and human error cause service problems in Fairfax and Arlington counties and elsewhere.

But Gross and other officials said the report provides no new information and blasted Verizon for not having fail-safe controls in place that would help avoid such a massive failure.

"Even financial institutions have fail-safe mechanisms," Gross said.

Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said she was encouraged by the steps Verizon was taking but noted it was "just a first step toward preventing another interruption" of the county's communication services.

The outages affected residents from Manassas to Arlington County, where officials urged residents to go to area fire stations to voice their needs because many 911 calls in the area weren't going through.

Diana Sun, Arlington's director of communications, said the spotty service was "inconvenient and worrisome" to county officials.

In the wake of their report, Verizon officials said they are "undertaking corrective actions" to help improve the company's performance.

"We're disappointed with our performance, and our comprehensive investigation has helped us understand what happened, why it happened and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again," Verizon spokesman Harry J. Mitchell said.

Still, Gross said Verizon has "a lot of explaining to do" if it's to regain the public's trust.

"They need to not only work on fixing their system," she said, "but fixing their communication with their public partners."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner