By Intrado in IWCE's Urgent Communications
On August 28, 2011—amid the chaos, devastation and destruction of Hurricane Irene—Vermont’s 911 emergency communications service stood steadfast with help from its next-generation 911 emergency services network deployed by Intrado.
In mid-2011, the Vermont Enhanced 911 Board partnered with Intrado to upgrade its legacy emergency communications network to a next-gen 911 emergency services IP network (ESInet). This modern ESInet, combined with Intrado Advanced 911 (A911) routing, enabled dynamic, emergency call-routing processing. The ESInet and A911 routing capabilities were designed to provide more robust, redundant and reliable statewide 911 services. Little did anyone know that this design would soon be tested.
On August 28, 2011, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in Vermont. The worst flooding in 84 years knocked out a 911 emergency communications center. Water surged throughout communities such as Wilmington, Grafton, Ludlow, Brandon, Waitsfield and Waterbury, washing out more than 200 roads, isolating 13 towns and resulting in 3 fatalities.
Irene’s 11 inches of rain transformed serene mountain streams into raging rivers of destruction that ripped homes from their foundations, devastated crops and destroyed businesses. The storm also affected a number of critical government installations, including Vermont’s second busiest 911 communications center in Rutland, which went off line for about eight hours.
Despite these problems Vermont’s residents were able to reach 911 during this time, thanks to the Intrado enhanced call-routing system and ESInet implemented just two months prior to the storm.
When the Rutland site went down, the state utilized its newly enhanced call-routing capabilities to immediately and dynamically modify call flows, which kept 911 services available to Vermont citizens during their time of need.
“Our call volume was almost twice as much as we had ever seen,” said David Tucker, executive director of the state of Vermont Enhanced 911 Board, David H. Tucker. “With our legacy system, the system could have been completely overwhelmed. Instead, we were able to distribute the call volume to the other seven PSAPs across the state and ensure that those calls got answered.”
Despite the widespread devastation and the closing of one emergency communications center, all calls to 911 from those whom needed help were answered.
“In the midst of the announcements of road closures, power outages and storm updates, I noticed the following statement appear across the TV screen, ‘911 is operational, continue to call 911 if you have an emergency to report,’” said Tucker. “The system enabled the state to do what it needed to do when it mattered most.
“Having the flexibility to dynamically reroute calls in the face of such challenging weather conditions allowed us to assist our citizens under extraordinary circumstances. Every 911 call that came into the PSAPs on Sunday was answered. If we prevented a caller from attempting to access a road overtaken by the flood, we potentially saved that person’s life.”
The Vermont Enhanced 911 Board intends to deploy more A911 solutions, such as geographical information system (GIS) mapping and video, over its Intrado ESInet in the near future. These and other next-gen 911 solutions will enhance situational awareness for PSAP call takers, dispatchers and responders while helping improve outcomes when lives and property are at stake.