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Verizon investigating issues related to Washington Co. 911 outage

March 12, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A Verizon spokeswoman said Tuesday that the company is conducting an investigation to review, among other things, communication between Verizon and the Washington County 911 call center in response to an incident in which the phones went down for about 15 minutes Sunday afternoon.

Bardona Woods, director of communications for Washington County Emergency Services, said Tuesday that Verizon called hours before the phones went out at the 911 center to alert personnel about a circuit problem in Cumberland, Md., that had the potential to cause problems in Washington County.

Woods said Verizon, in a 1:42 a.m. call, told Emergency Services personnel that an alarm monitoring the phone system had activated at the 911 center. But when 911 officials checked, they discovered it was a false alarm, she said.

Woods said Verizon made subsequent calls throughout the day Sunday to follow up. But, she said, Verizon did not notify the 911 center when the phones went down at 4:20 p.m. Sunday.

Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette wrote in emails that Verizon contacted the 911 center at 1:45 a.m. Sunday to inform them about a problem with a circuit. She said Verizon also called at various times throughout the day to follow up.

Arnette said the telephone company was investigating to determine what went wrong.

“To your questions about the timing of communications between Verizon and the Washington County 911 center, that’s part of our ongoing investigation — the results of which we will share with the 911 center,” Arnette wrote.

“Among other things, this will include the root cause of the issue and communications between the company and county 911 personnel,” she wrote. “We will continue to monitor the service until the county and we are confident that no other issues will occur. And, we continue to be in communications with the county.”

Woods said the phone system was down for about 15 minutes before the backup system kicked in at about 4:35 p.m., enabling personnel to answer calls, but without the benefits of caller ID and other enhancements.

Woods said dispatchers answered back-up phones until the problem was resolved at 5:04 p.m.

Officials believe two calls might have been missed while the 911 lines were down, Woods said. Dispatchers realized there was a problem when a nursing home called an alternate emergency number to request medical assistance.

She said dispatching services weren’t slowed by the outage or the absence of caller ID.

Officials at the 911 center gave alternate emergency numbers to the media for dissemination to the public. In addition, ambulance services were urged to increase staffing in case injured people dropped by for medical treatment.

Woods said the 911 center handles about 270 calls per day.

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