911 lines across Hampton Roads restored, busy signals reported for hours

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Multiple cities on the Peninsula and Eastern Shore reported that their emergency 9-1-1 lines were down Sunday afternoon. The city of Norfolk also experienced the communication issue.

According to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, the problem was not with any of the cities, but was a problem with Verizon.

The York County Dispatch Center hummed along Sunday evening with no signs of the major breakdown that took down their call center and several others across the Peninsula and Eastern Shore.

“We had a catastrophic intermittent outage,” York County Emergency Communications head Terry Hall said. “We do not believe at the 911 center we ever lost 100 percent, but we probably lost 90 percent.”

Around 1 p.m., callers into 911 centers across Hampton Roads received busy signals or dead air when they tried to call in. Halls said the problem started on, the phone company, Verizon’s end.

“All of the equipment in each one of the 911 centers was working perfectly,” Hall explained. “But the pipeline that goes to the 911 centers that delivers the 911 calls was basically down.”

By the time Verizon restored the pipeline around 3 p.m., York County and others used the non-emergency lines to answer emergency calls.

Hall said Verizon’s outage has happened only one other time while he has worked at the call center.

“Part of the problem is the 911 infrastructure system that we have in the country is very antiquated,” he explained. “It was put in in the 1970’s and has not been upgraded since.”

In York County, the antiquated system won’t run for long.

“We are all getting ready to migrate to a new technology that’s called Next Generation 911,” Hall explained. “Which is an IP based system; meaning we’ll be able to transmit information over the internet directly into the call center.”

Verizon still has not determined what caused the nearly three-hour blockage.

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