WASHINGTON Jan 10 U.S. regulators may require
telecommunications companies to do a better job of safeguarding
the 911 systems that are used to call for emergency help,
according to an official at the Federal Communications
The agency criticized some 911 providers for suffering
outages that resulted from "avoidable" problems as basic as a
lack of backup power, following a freak 2012 storm .
Emergency 911 services were disrupted for large numbers of
people twice in 2012 - once when an unpredictable windstorm
called a derecho swung through the center of the country to the
Mid-Atlantic coast on June 29, and again when Superstorm Sandy
smashed into New York and New Jersey in late October.
The FCC, in the summary of a report on 911 outages during
the derecho, noted that the powerful winds knocked out emergency
services in isolated areas of four states but caused serious
breakdowns in northern Virginia and West Virginia.
Verizon Communications Inc provides 911 service in
Virginia while Frontier Communications Corp is the
service provider in West Virginia.
"9-1-1 communications were disrupted in large part because
of avoidable planning and system failures, including the lack of
functional backup power, notably in central offices," said the
report, which was issued by FCC's Public Safety and Homeland
The executive summary did not touch on Sandy. Telecom
services including 911 were affected in that massive storm but
not as disproportionately as following the derecho.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to propose rules
to beef up the networks, an FCC official said.
The changes envisioned would require audits of 911 circuits
to ensure the companies know where they are in the network,
backup power at main offices, regular maintenance and testing,
and a requirement that companies notify emergency workers when
the network is down, the official said.