APCO Statement Concerning 9-1-1 Outages

Interruptions to the public’s ability to reach 9-1-1 are a serious concern. As a practice, APCO does not comment on specific outages until we are confident that the causes are fully understood, but here’s what we know about outages in general.

The Federal Communications Commission has rules that apply to companies responsible for delivering 9-1-1 calls that require a certain degree of redundancy so that, for example, a company does not rely on a single fiber line or key piece of equipment, and to require these providers to promptly notify 9-1-1 centers when outages occur. These rules, however, aren’t enough.

The FCC receives reports of tens of thousands of 9-1-1 outages each year, and it’s likely that a large, unknown number of additional outages occur that don’t have to be reported. APCO is working with the FCC to reevaluate its rules to ensure that 9-1-1 centers have critical outage information so they can advise the public on how to contact emergency services.

We also know that a substantial investment is needed to make the nation’s 9-1-1 systems more reliable and more modern. Today’s 9-1-1 systems are in many ways based on 50+-year-old technology, which places severe strains on these systems and limits the options that 9-1-1 centers have to address outages and to use modern communications such as multimedia. This is why it is so important that Congress act on major federal funding legislation widely supported by many of the nation’s top public safety associations that would modernize 9-1-1 emergency communications networks throughout the country to Next Generation 9-1-1. NG9-1-1 would enable the public to communicate with 9-1-1 centers using modern IP-based methods including photos, videos, medical data, etc. NG9-1-1 also would result in much greater redundancy and resiliency to provide multiple paths for 9-1-1 calls to take around a point of failure, better resist system outages, and recover more quickly.

9-1-1 professionals are the unsung heroes of our 9-1-1 emergency response system. They are the first, first responders, providing lifesaving instructions and directing the appropriate response. This includes during incidents like this outage. Regardless of the cause, scope, or lack of critical information, 9-1-1 professionals take immediate steps to help mitigate the impact to the communities they serve.

It just so happens that this is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. It’s a fitting time to express appreciation to these heroes and direct attention to ensuring they have the information and resources they need to keep our communities safe.