Arlington Reports Problems with 911 From Cell Phones

by ARLnow.com July 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm 4,412 27 Comments

Update at 12:40 p.m. — Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is now accessible from cell phones, but other problems may remain.

More problems with the county’s 911 system are being reported as the area continues to recover from Friday’s storms.

Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is “experiencing problems with 911 calls from wireless phones.”

“Verizon is working to fix the problem,” the county said in a brief statement. “Please call our alternate emergency number at 703-741-3035 for assistance if you cannot get through on 9-1-1 or go to your local Fire Station.”

As stated during a press conference with the head of the county’s Office of Emergency Management earlier today, Arlington’s non-emergency number, 703-558-2222, may also be an option for cell phone users to reach emergency dispatchers.

  • Chris B

    An absolute disgrace. 911 service has been down or extremely hard to reach since Saturday morning.

  • Nooner

    The problem is in Verizon’s trunk lines. It is unfortunate that such a critical service depends on private infrastructure that does not have the build in capacity required for the large call volumes that occur during regional incidents.

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      Do you have a source for this info? I am not a telco engineer but I want to understand what happened at a more technical level than just “s–t stopped working” 😀

      I don’t recall a storm that took down so many systems at once…

      There’s 8 million people in Virginia, 7 million phone lines, and Verizon collects $0.75 *per month* from each of those 7 million phone lines to pay for E911. For $60 million per year in the Commonwealth, you’d think we get a backup battery 😉

  • alex1138

    Hey ARLNOW: Thanks for keeping us updated. You are it for me!

  • I agree -thanks arlnow- we are still in the dark with lots of pets so we rely on your info and site for updates. THANKS!!!

  • HayDiosMio

    As the song says bro. Get up, get, get, get down. 911 es joke en su ciudad.

    Pura mi madre. Pura mi padre. Pura pendejada, Pura the chef at Benihana. Behold the image of Madonna. It’s getting hot like a sauna.

    I’m going to start calling the Fairfax emergency response if this keeps up. Bro.

    • you got that right

      yo numbnut – the Ffx system went down catastrophically over the weekend with the same problem. good luck on that strategy

  • Laura

    A tree crashed through the roof of my house and into my bedroom Friday night. When I called 911 we were told we were 153rd in line. If anyone had been seriously hurt we would have died waiting for help. We were totally on our own and we knew it. Really really scary. And this wasn’t even a MAJOR catastrophe.

    • mark

      Over 60 percent of the county without power and it wasn’t a MAJOR catastrophe?

    • Derek Spector

      Your call to Arlington ECC was most likely deemed to be a low priority due to the fact that no one was hurt. Property damage calls were pushed back to make room for the calls that involved injury (like the man who was struck by a large tree limb) or life safety (like the people who were stuck in elevators for up to 90 mins.). If you or someone in your house had been injured (thank goodness this wasn’t the case) your call would have been moved to the highest priority and handled properly. On Friday evening the staff at ECC did an awesome job when you take into consideration the staffing level and the call volume in the moments and hours following the storm.

    • If anyone had been seriously hurt…

      You would not have been 153rd in line.

      911 operators triage calls in a high demand situation like this. An incident that involved only property damage (potentially along with minor injury – it’s hard to tell from your post) goes at the back of the line.

      And really, 911 is not at all meant for an incident involving only property damage (except potentially auto accidents, which are of course a special case). If a minor injury is involved, the prudent response is really to drive to the hospital yourself. Or maybe take a cab if you don’t have a car.

      Not to utilize resources meant to aid response to life and death emergencies.

      • CW

        Yes, +1 this, what the hell did you want 911 to do, Laura, come take the tree away in an ambulance? People like you are the reason WHY the 911 system gets bogged down.

        • IP678

          I don’t fault her for calling 911 for a tree falling on her house. That’s what I would do. But with a Level 27 Killstorm going on, I would at least understand prioritization might put me somewhere not at the top of the list.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Verizon service land and wireless has been a joke through this whole thing. I heard they basically have a single switch for all of AC, and it was majorly knocked out. If power was the problem and a good backup was all that was needed – I hope they get crucified.

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      I’d be shocked if they had only one switch for the county and it wasn’t engineered to survive a loss of power.

      There probably is a move to consolidate things in the network, move everything to digital networks, route everything across IP, use bigger pieces of equipment with more capacity, etc. but you’d think Verizon wouldn’t lose sight of the need for redundancy and network diversity as this happens…

  • JnA

    Arlington Emergency Communications Center only cost taxpayers $14 million when it was completed three years ago.

    • b

      granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances aren’t cheap…

      • CW

        “Builder-grade finishes”!

  • brendan

    it is truly embarrassing that in the years since 9/11, with all the money that has gone into emergency operations infrastructure, that 911 service still goes down. I get you want to have a nice kitchen, with all stainless steel and granite counter tops that you were so proud of that you dedicated an entire ASPAN segment to, but when you skip over failsafes in favor of luxuries it should be a source of at least some embarrassment to those with any sense of responsibility.

    another point in regards to the county’s emergency operations management… why were there at least a dozen, if not more, officers doing parade security on 4mr on saturday? Limbs were still falling, elderly and sick residents were left without power and phone connections as the heat index was over 100, dozens of large intersections were still dark and unattended… and a significant number of officers were on parade duty???

    Where is the accountability?

    • ballsteve

      Don’t parades and events like that actually have to pay for the officers? I don’t believe they are volunteering or being provided by the county, but rather are rented for service on those events. Perhaps they are contractually obligated to be there.

      I’m not saying its the right thing to do, especially under the circumstances, but it could be the reason.

      • Yes, they do pay them.

        Either through the cost of a parade permit, hiring off duty cops, or some combination of those.

        And while I’m often first in line to bash cops, what exactly would people have had them do that they didn’t?

        Arlington does not have a huge police force. I personally like it that way. We live in a generally law abiding community, and we should reap the benefits of that in the form of a smaller, cheaper police force.

        We don’t have enough cops to direct traffic at every intersection with a light outage.

        We COULD have enough cops that we could post one at EVERY intersection in the County after a storm like this, if everyone were willing to deal with a giant property tax hike, and a bunch of cops with nothing to do except write speeding, jaywalking, and other tickets 99% of the time.

        I’ve yet to hear of the major incident in the county over the past 96 hours or so that would not have occurred with more cops present.

        News flash – a pedestrian getting hit on Columbia Pike doesn’t count.

        Neither does it taking an hour to travel a couple blocks through one of the most complicated traffic light controlled intersections in the County (ie wilson/clarendon/washington/etc). If you’re stupid enough to try driving through that intersection when there’s no functioning light (cop directing traffic or not), you deserve to sit in traffic for an hour.

        • IP678

          I don’t buy the “they paid for them so that trumps everything else”. Could I pay for a few police to come guard my house while my alarm system and power are down?

          And for what else they could do, they could monitor intersections in their patrol division that do not have power. Maintain flares or other illuminated warning devices that would help drivers approaching intersections. They don’t have to sit at every intersection, but they could keep some sort of temporary warning lights/flares going. Maybe that would have helped in the Columbia Pike tragedy.

        • Mike

          The worst part of the county police closing roads for this parade is that they could have also, at the same time, made traffic safer for those driving through the area. The corner of Four Mile Run and Walter Reed was a mess all morning, even with the turn lanes blocked. All the while, two police officers sat in their cruisers 50 yards from the intersection, enjoying their AC and watching the parade. Why couldn’t they have stood outside in shifts directing traffic?

          It’s not the individual officers decision to hold the parade through an emergency, but it was their decision to be lazy. Part of a policeman’s job is to assess the situation and make it safer, and here, they failed.

          • WeiQiang

            Agree that more could have been done. The Bolivian Festival was on 4MR Dr. and the Feces Festival was on the other side of 4MR in Shirlington Village with those lights out.

            I don’t put it on the police who were assigned to the parade, but certainly other police or AuxPolice could have helped. As it was, traffic just went up Walter Reed 100 yards then stopped to make a U-turn.

  • Really

    thanks to the county for giving us another number and thanks to ARLnow for reporting it. Seriously people, move to DC where, storm or no storm, you get put on hold, get rude treatment, and ridiculous EMS service. We had someone with chest pains at my office a few weeks ago and an ambulance was called. The EMS woman and the fire fighter hugged and chatted for a few before they came in the building. I’m thankful for the competent police, fire, dispatchers, etc. in Arlington.

  • Public Enemy

    911 is a joke is your town!



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