A rash of service disruptions

Recent 911 failures in the Washington region:

June 29, 2012: A violent storm knocked out power around the region, and Verizon’s multiple backups failed. Emergency 911 service was out until the next day in government call centers in Fairfax and Prince William counties and Manassas. Service was out until July 1 in Manassas Park. Twenty-one other centers in Virginia had only intermittent service, with some problems extending through July 4.

A generator at a Verizon facility in Fairfax did not start because of a faulty part, and backup batteries went dead. A generator at a Verizon facility in Arlington County had not started during a test two days before the storm. It also failed to start during the storm, and backup batteries ran out of power. A Verizon system that remotely monitors 911 outages and alarms lost its battery power, leaving the company blind to the crisis.

May 30, 2011: For four hours, 911 calls placed over cellphones or Internet lines arrived at various emergency centers in Virginia and Maryland without the callers’ locations. The problem extended into other states.

The problem was caused by a defective circuit breaker and power loss at a Verizon facility in New Jersey. A Verizon technician had flagged the problem for repair but did not dispatch anyone to fix it. After a follow-up call, a technician incorrectly reported that the problem had been resolved. Over the next 12 hours, backup batteries drained.

March 25, 2011: Some 911 lines in Prince George’s County impaired. Verizon learned of the problem from the county. Verizon’s operations center could not see an automatic warning about the outage because a week earlier the alarm had been switched off.

Feb. 18, 2011: Cellphones lost 911 service intermittently for 21 / 2 hours on calls to Fairfax and Arlington counties during a snowstorm.Calls did not go through because equipment overheated at a Verizon facility.

Jan. 31, 2011: A Verizon equipment failure shut down some 911 lines to Montgomery and Prince George’s call centers. Some calls that did make it through did not contain address information. The same type of equipment problem caused a Dec. 17, 2010, failure.

Jan. 26, 2011: About 10,000 callers in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties got busy signals over several hours because of Verizon service problems. Verizon said there had been two similar failures elsewhere in 2010.

Dec. 17, 2010: A Verizon equipment failure shut down some 911 wireless lines to Prince George’s County. Some calls that did arrive lacked address information.

Aug. 29, 2010: Service was disrupted for about three hours in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties after a Verizon construction crew damaged equipment. The crew started work without checking on a backup system, which was out of service for maintenance.

Aug. 27, 2010: For about 11 hours, Calvert County’s 911 center did not receive callers’ addresses because of a Verizon equipment failure.

Aug. 1, 2010: For about three hours, some of St. Mary’s County’s 911 lines were out of service because of a transmitter failure and an “unknown” problem with Verizon backup equipment.

July 4, 2010: For about six hours, Calvert County’s 911 service was limited after a transformer fire burned Verizon equipment and a backup system failed.

— Mary Pat Flaherty

SOURCES: Federal Communications Commission, Maryland Public Service Commission, Verizon, Fairfax County, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments