VA - Y2K plans save the day when 911 goes down : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Last updated Tuesday, 24-Oct-00 01:00:56 By PAMELA GOULD The Free Lance-Star

Y2K preparations paid off Friday when Stafford County lost 911 service because of two fiber-optic line cuts.

Chuck Thompson, the countyBs director of fire, rescue and emergency services, and Sheriff Charles Jett met about 2 p.m. Friday and immediately implemented the Y2K plans after emergency communications workers discovered they werenBt receiving 911 calls.

BGiven the circumstances, it went pretty well,B Thompson said yesterday. BThereBs nothing like trying to operate without an emergency operations center.B

No major calamities were reported while the 911 service was down, according to Thompson and Jett. Verizon Communications spokesman Paul Miller said 911 service was restored about 7 p.m. and that all customers were back in service by 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Two fiber-optic lines were cut Friday in unrelated incidents by contractors, Miller said. One cut occurred on Quantico Marine Corps Base, the other just outside the base.

That resulted in phone problems for customers from Dale City through Stafford.

Had only one cut occurred, Miller said the technology is such that no one would have noticed a problem, and 911 would have continued operating.

Generally, with the technology referred to as a Bsonet ringBBfor synchronized optical networkBthe line is what Miller called Bself-healing.B

BTraffic automatically reverses directions and still gets through and no one even notices what happened,B Miller said.

The problem Friday was that the line experienced two cuts in quick successionBsomething he said rarely happens.

Thompson said the operations center staff shifted to radio communications and used that to alert staff about the problem. County officials called on radio stations in the Fredericksburg area to help get word out to the public.

Volunteer fire and rescue personnel were asked to immediately man their stations, sheriffBs deputies were sent to schools and Fredericksburg officials were asked to take 911 calls from Stafford.

Word apparently did get out to the public, Thompson said.

People went to the Rock Hill station to report a gas leak and to the Aquia Harbour station about several traffic accidents.

Jett said he called in every deputy except those scheduled for the midnight shift so he could post them around the county. He sent deputies specifically to places such as banks to ward off anyone who might have seen the phone outage as an opportunity for crime.

The sheriff said the timing of the outage was especially bad. BNormally, on Friday afternoon many things go onBmedical-wise and police-wise.B

Friday was the second time Stafford has experienced a 911 problem, but the first time service was completely cut, Thompson said.

He said developing a Y2K emergency plan last year helped the county handle FridayBs situation. But it didnBt remove the anxiety.

BItBs pretty tough to have a catastrophic failure,B Thompson said. BI certainly hope we donBt have another one.B

-- Doris (, October 24, 2000

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