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    Verizon Tells Council Company President Vows To Find Cause Of LB/562 Phone Outage & Will Provide Report To City Mgm't.; LBPD & LBFD Say Communication Was Maintained Between Emergency Personnel Via Radio Links

    (Oct. 18, 2005, 9:00 p.m. update) -- In a report to the City Council on today's (Oct. 18) major telephone outage, Verizon's LB-area Dir. of External Affairs, Mike Murray, told the City Council that the company president has vowed to get to the bottom of what happened...and the company will provide a full report to city management.

    Mr. Murray told the Council:

    ...At 2:30 this morning, our network operations center, which is in Dallas, notified us that there was an equipment failure in a central office here in Long Beach, and that particular piece of equipment controlled trunking between different central offices, and so a number of central offices were affected by this equipment failure.

    ...Our President has committed to city staff that we are going to find out what this issue was, what caused this system failure, as well as the redundancy failure, as we will get back to the city managers with the president and other people as well to determine exactly what happened here.

    City management, including LBFD and LBPD command staff, told the Council that LB's Emergency Communications and Operations Center was activated before dawn, and public safety communication was maintained between PD, FD, emergency personnel transit and other agencies via the use of radio links, both within LB and with neighboring agencies. "Although phone services and computer services were lost within the city, radio communications with both fire department, police department and other emergency responders were never lost, we were always in communications with units in the field and we had full command and control of what was going on," LBPD Deputy Chief Tim Jackman said.

    911 calls on most LB hard-wired phones were disrupted, officials said...although some of those fortunate enough to have cell phones were able to reach 911 (cell phone 911 calls go to CHP...which routed them to LBPD's Communications Center).

    Areas affected by the 562 telephone outage stretched throughout the 562 area code and some adjoining areas, from the southbay through Huntington Beach and included Signal Hill, Lakewood and several other cities.

    LB City Manager Jerry Miller said his day began at 5:30 a.m. as a uniform cop came to his home to advise phones throughout the city were down, emergency 911 capacity was down, and ECOC was being activated. "Upon arrival at the ECOC, I observed initially Fire and Police personnel, then added departments, all working seamlessly on what I learned later to be a very extensive communications network outage...I have long felt that this organization does its best work under the most trying of situations, and today was no exception."

    Fire Chief Dave Ellis (who credited City Hall Technology Services chief Curtis Tani for his work) reported that after the communications failure became known about 2:30 a.m., a protocol was initiated to check radio links and dispatch capabilities...which were found to be functional. Fire Chief Ellis continued:

    Fire Chief Ellis:: Each of our 23 fire stations were contacted via radio and directed to make critical facility checks...They then became to the citizens since most of them had no phone contact. All staff members from Fire Prevention were also assigned to the field and also became roving patrols, as did all the firefighters that were working...Five local TV stations and three local radio stations were called upon. By 4 o' clock [a.m.]...the ECOC [was at] basically a full level operation...

    [Departments responding as needed included] the Fire Dept., the Police Dept. the Lifeguards, the City Manager's office, Technology Services, Public Works, Airport Bureau, Long Beach Energy, the Health Dept, Financial Management, the Harbor & Marine Patrol and the Water Dept...[as well as] Verizon, Edison, Long Beach Unified School District, Cal State University Long Beach Security, Signal Hill Police Dept., Long Beach Transit, L.A. City Fire had representatives at our site along with L.A. County office of Emergency Management...We also had 23 Amateur Radio Operators that were deployed...prepositioned at a number of pre-identified convalescent hospitals and senior care facilities throughout the city, then this was networked with the County of Los Angeles...

    It appears that all the emergency responses were handled as usual and did not suffer any loss of communications or service other than the disruption of [phone] service...The City was successful by utilizing a unified incident command structure. That can't be emphasized enough. What I saw as the Fire Chief was an outstanding -- repeat, outstanding -- level of field and administrative staff that were working together, providing solutions...

    Deputy LBPD Chief Tim Jackman: ...Frankly, we never expected to have a technological issue like this. We expected to lose this type of communication as a result of a major natural disaster such as an earthquake and so we have had some prior planning...but frankly we didn't anticipate the scope of the loss of communications that we had today and it presented us with some unique challenges...

    ...Our first issue was to ensure that people that needed to call for emergency service...that they had somewhere to turn to. So what we needed to do was staff enough visible law enforcement presence on the street that someone could literally walk out their front door and wave and hopefully find a police officer or a fire truck driving down the street...Later in the day we also involved other city workers and Long Beach Transit so that anybody could approach any city or governmental service agency and be able to get in contact with law enforcement and Fire...

    ...[We also resorted] a Tactical Level Two level of operation, in which we only respond to Priority 1 calls that are essentially life threatening...from about 3 o'clock this morning until about 3 o'clock this afternoon...

    ...The call volume that we normally experience on a Tuesday morning at about 6 or 7 o'clock is normally around 90 or 100 calls...Today we had a grand total of 12 calls make it there obviously was a lot of things that we were not able to get to because we simply didn't know about it...

    ...Although phone services and computer services were lost within the city, radio communications with both fire department, police department and other emergency responders were never lost, we were always in communications with units in the field and we had full command and control of what was going on.

    ...In order to staff all those visible units, we put our Detectives into uniform and sent them out in police cars as well, and essentially we increased by well over 50% of our normal deployment what was out there...


    Deputy Chief Jackman added that although systems have been restored "there is some possibility that the system may go down again" and so LBPD is planning on maintaining enhanced staff until 6 a.m. Wednesday Oct. 19, on patrol and also staffing LBPD's substations stations overnight tonight (Oct. 18-19).

  • Related coverage: Verizon Says Phone Service Restored After Major Phone Outage Hits LB & 562 Area; Problem Is Traced To Computer Problem In Verizon's Downtown LB Office

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