Volunteer Firefighter International

911 and Phone Outages: What’s Your Plan?

Everyone from the chief to the newest rookie should know and train on the plan

By Barry Furey, Firefighter Close Calls

For those of you following the Nashville situation, I urge you to consider how a single incident impacted 911 in a least two states. An event that causes loss of communications does not have to happen in your backyard. The damage can be done hundreds of miles away.

What would happen if you suddenly lost your emergency reporting number? Cell service? Some or all of your voice and data circuits?

How would you receive and dispatch calls? How will your citizens reach you if they don’t have access to a working phone? How will you reach your units if your radio or alerting systems depend upon connections that are suddenly not there?

What does your plan say? You don’t have one? Why not?

Get writing ASAP. Our ability to serve is tied directly to these networks. Without them – or a viable plan – we’re useless.

And what do your dispatchers say about your plan? Do they know what to do?

I ask because the Nashville incident occurred on Christmas morning. How many key personnel were working at that time? My guess is very few. All your plans should be known and exercised by everyone from the chief down to the rookie.

Finally, do you have any critical telephone, microwave, or Internet facilities in your first-due area? If so, what services do they provide? What’s your pre-plan? What are your SOPs for responding to bombings, regardless of the target?

Incidents such as this are low-frequency, high-impact occurrences that put both the public and firefighters at risk. Plan accordingly.

Image: Nashville Fire Department

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