Public-safety answering points (PSAPs) strive to operate at all times, regardless of the challenging circumstances that surround them. But 70% of them experienced some sort of an outage during 2013, and 28% suffered downtime lasting more than an hour, according to a survey recently released by Stratus Technologies.

These results were among the finding of a survey that gathered input from more than 900 public-safety professionals in North America, said Dave LeClair, senior director of strategy and for Stratus Technologies, which provides solutions designed to ensure operational continuity of communications for myriad organizations.

“We found that 70% of them had experienced some sort of system or application outage in the last 12 months,” LeClair said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Well over half of them had experienced an outage that lasted longer than 15 minutes, with 28% of them having an outage that exceeded an hour, which is a pretty significant outage—depending on the size of your center, that could be upwards of 57 missed calls that resulted from that outage.

“That’s a pretty big impact, from the potential risk that you’re putting the community in. It’s also not a great thing for reputational purposes for the people who are responsible. If you’re the local police or fire department responsible for that center, you’re probably not wanting to be the police chief responding to why your call center was down for an hour or more.”

The 70% figure is an increase compared to the 67% figure claiming outages during the Stratus Technologies survey released last year, according to the company.

Some other notable findings from the 19-question survey are that 59% of respondents said that their PSAP has done next-generation 911 updates or plan to do so during the upcoming year. Despite a nationwide focus on PSAP availability, 20% of those responding said their PSAP does not have a backup location—a situation that could be problematic in the aftermath of a natural disaster or large-scale incident, LeClair said.

“It’s surprising that one in five really have no plans for that type of event,” he said.

Virtualization is one approach that is popular: 32% already virtualize critical and non-critical applications, and another 19% have plans to virtualize applications, according to the survey. However, of the PSAPs that have virtualized, 53% still experienced outages lasting at least 15 minutes, the survey results indicate.

Indeed, while virtualization can help PSAPs reduce downtime, “it’s not a full solution” and requires a thoughtful approach, LeClair said.

“If you virtualize many applications onto a single server, you get into a situation where—instead of having one egg per basket—you now have multiple eggs in a single basket,” he said. “And, if that basket happens to go down, you may actually bring down multiple applications, instead of a single application.”