This article was posted before 01/01/2011 and is most likely outdated.

Emergency Back Sizing for 911 Center (01-17-01)

EE Articles Menu  

Do you or any of your newsletter members have any information concerning battery backup requirements for 911 centers? I have been told that FEMA has a requirement for four hours of UPS battery backup for 911 centers. I have been unable to verify this information. Any suggestions?
Martin Conroy, CPQ

Response No. 1:

It has taken a day or two to do some checking on the requirement for the backup batteries question.
1. FEMA in Tallahassee sent me to the Atlanta Regional. The answer there was: "Federal Regulations must have immediate power or transfer to another number." They also suggested reference 44 CFR as having some 911 requirements.

2. I contacted the DCA in Tallahassee. You can access them online at\EOC. The information given there was "24-hour generator fuel supply," but this is not a hard rule, only guidelines.
Ben Harris

Response No. 2:

Our EOC (911 center) Director here in Waynesboro, VA advised me that FEMA requires four DAYS of backup power. This obviously translates into some type of generator.
Bill Butler

Response No. 3:
I sent this request to Ernie Blair who is the Director of the Huntsville-Madison County E-911Center here in Huntsville, Alabama. His reply is as follows: "I don't think there are any hard and fast requirements for 911 Centers. We don't report to FEMA and there is no national regulatory agency and Alabama does not have a state regulatory agency."
Bob Doehrman,

Response No. 4:

I have had to install and maintain several 911 centers throughout the state of Iowa. In most cases they follow NEC guidelines. Article 700-12(a) states that batteries last 1 1/2 hours at 87 1/2 percent or more of nominal voltage under full load. In all of our sites, we also have backup generators to provide emergency power.

FEMA, to my knowledge, does not provide "rules" but guidelines. I don't know of any requirement for a four-hour battery backup. There are many local or state rules concerning this subject. Most requirements state that the system must be backed up for the duration of the outage, which means that adequate fuel, coolant, and any other materials must be readily available to keep the system online. The telephone industry has to provide this also, as their equipment is critical to the emergency (I have also worked with many of their sites). Most telephone battery backup systems are designed for eight-hour loads along with backup generators.

In 1994, I was involved in an emergency where lightning knocked out the 911 system and ALL of its backup power sources. This is not a common problem, but it can happen. The Phone Company was able to transfer the 911 service to another site that was not affected. This has happened a couple other times that I know about where the phone cable was cut and 911 center was operating but the phones weren't. The transfer takes time and in some cases it requires the person to dial a non-911 phone. The broadcast industry is usually involved at that point to - get-the-word-out! A four-hour battery system might be able to handle the in-house problems, but what about the other?

The best policy is to have a backup PLAN in case of multiple problems or possible generator failure. Failure of the backup generator would be my biggest concern. Those systems are NOT always maintained as good as they should be, especially in communities where maintenance personnel are stretched thin and defective equipment is not repaired quickly (battery to start the generator was bad for over a year but was not a problem as long as it wasn't below freezing and a maintenance person was there to help). Using jumper cables to start the generator from the city pick-up truck is not a good plan!
Hope this helps.
Terry L. Crowe,

Response No. 5:

I talked to our local expert on 911 installations, who has been instrumental in getting funding and installing 911 centers throughout eastern Colorado. He told me that there is no requirement for battery backup. He has a couple in smaller towns that do not have batteries but, as money becomes available, will purchase a UPS. Most of the larger cities have emergency power (gen-set) available, so there is no real need for a UPS, but most have it to keep power on until the emergency power becomes available. If you have a power outage of more than a few minutes, there should be an effort to get emergency generators (whether stand-by type or portable) running and hooked up as soon as possible. If you have an emergency need because of a power outage that lasts more than four hours, as stated in the question, you will probably have other just as important problems; such as: phone lines down, town blown away, etc.
Hope this helps, in some small way.
Rick Miell,

Response No. 6:
I've contacted FEMA directly through their Web site. The following was sent to They also have another address that they recommend sending E-mail to and that is

Jeff King,

Response No. 7:

Jack S. Caufield,

Response No. 8:

Also, from my past telecommunications experience, I think you will find that most municipalities, along with most large companies, have emergency generators installed. The problems with the generators are the 'up-time' or the time between a system losing power and when the generator actually kicks into operation and provides full power. This is the most critical time for a computer if it's on its way down while power is trying to come up at the same time. Backup generators are talking seconds while computers
are talking nanoseconds.

In regard to 'leads' for such purchases, the Federal Government has a book published monthly from the GSA which details all of the requests for the coming months and includes 'GOODS AND SERVICES'. The states (or at least Massachusetts) have two books. One is the Central Register, which is published monthly I believe, and the other is the weekly 'goods and services'. Both of these are available from the states' book department at the State House. These books are also available at every library in the state. They are generally in with the periodicals or you may ask the Librarian.
Sorry I couldn't be of any other assistance.
Gerard Lofgren

Response No. 9:
I think I remember seeing something in the ECM magazine about three or four months ago. Check the back issues or their Web site. The web address is Good luck!

Jeffrey D. Coggins,

Response No. 10:
Geeez.... As an EMT, I sure hope so. Surf up the FEMA site index at They might even have an E-mail address for your inquires.

Steve, Chester Electric, Inc.

Response No. 11:

I have asked for some help from EPRI. I have not checked it out yet. You can follow these instructions:
Follow the link to standard 04-001. On page 46 (of the document, not the PDF file) you will see that only about 15 minutes is required for the UPS. However, they recommend the use of a backup generator.
Hope this helps. (Tom G.)

Response No. 12:

There is a national association of emergency call centers. Unfortunately, I don't remember what it's called. Perhaps if you browse around the Web you can find it, and I'm sure they'll know the answer to this question.

Director, Codes and Standards, NECA

Response No. 13:

I'd personally recommend that you simply figure out the longest power outage of the last 50 years and plan for that amount of time (double, if possible) with your critical systems. Granted, budgets are absolutely not infinite, but waiting on FEMA to get anything done sounds like a bad deal to me, at least if my dealings with other federal agencies are any indication. You might also do well simply to ask local hospitals/police how many hours they can run on generators and plan for that amount of time, plus some.

(In short, I recommend that you predicate your actions on the anticipated need, not the reasoning of a bureaucracy that may or may not have constitutional authority) On the same note, I've received a UPS from APC and I'm very happy with it.
Robert Perry,

Response No. 14:
I've been away from this for about a year (retired after 30 years to Idaho!), so the contact may not be there. I used to work the E-911 project for Bell South Mobility in Central Florida. We worked quite a lot with the FEMA folks. There was a knowledgeable person that might be able to help run this question down if he's still there. His name is James Ryan and he was the Director, Emergency Management-Volusia County (904) 736-5980 (sorry, no E-mail address). I remember some discussion on this topic as cellular system battery backup, and our generator sites and portable fleet were things the county (and FEMA) was definitely interested in. Not sure what they ended up specifying for battery backup times after our discussions. Hope this helps.
George Stewart,

Response No. 15:

So far this is all I have been able to come up with.

Robert E. Leonhardt

Response No. 16:

You might try to contact someone at Liebert or Powerware. Check their Web sites. As far as a code/standard requirement, FEMA is probably using NFPA 111, 2-2.3 to establish a time period.
Dan Chisholm,

Response No. 17:

You may want to check NFPA Standard #1221, Standard for Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Public Fire Service Communications Systems. Also, requirements may come from: (1) Underwriters Labs; (2) Insurance company covering the 911 center; or (3) Local building codes (BOCA, NFPA 101, etc)

Charles Coffman,

Response No. 18:

I am not involved with the engineering of these shelters, but I asked one of our project managers about your question. We build the communications buildings that go below the 911 towers. We also have to meet this four-hour backup requirement, but I do not know where this originates.
Barb Bieganski

Response No. 19:
Try to chase down the UPS specification. I would bet there would only be a requirement for emergency power backup; i.e., generator.
Rick Hart,

Response No. 20:
I'm the Telecommunication Manager for two large hospitals in Richmond, Virginia and we require eight hours of battery backup. Our system came with six hours.
Karl Hartle,

Response No. 21:
Four hours? That does not make any sense. Can you imagine the quantity of batteries and the extensive mechanical, architectural and electrical considerations required? We designed a County Sheriff's office building with a new 911 center and the design included a small UPS to support the load for about five minutes but there was also a Level 1 generator that supported the entire emergency system for the building. I don't know of any FEMA requirements, but considering the mission of the 911-call center, emergency power supporting an UPS is reasonable.
Charles Cobb,

Response No. 22:
I worked on a number of 911 centers for another company this past summer. Several of them did not have battery backup that would last over an hour. I was not the one making the call on this, but the managers of the centers based this on cost. At no time did FEMA regulations come up, only state regulations (in this case, Illinois). What they did have was a fail-safe relay that would drop out in the event of loss of power, which would transfer calls to another 911 center.

As I said, I was not the one making the calls, so I cannot say if this is accurate information or not. This may not be much help, but I hope it helps a little.
Mark Elkins, Elkins Technologies

Response No. 23:

Of course it would be the easiest to ask FEMA directly. On the practical side of things, a four-hour battery probably doubles the cost of the UPS, and that cost is recurring every time you need to replace the batteries every 3-7 years. If FEMA requires anything, it is probably the assured availability of power. I would doubt that they would make a ruling or limitation on the technology to be used.

It is much more practical and cost effective to install an emergency standby generator and provide the alternate normal and bypass source from this unit. The batteries can be as small as 10-minute full load. I would also install an individual cell monitor/charger such as Alber, Btech or AutoCap, and specify the generator as a life support - hospital - grade unit.
Laszlo Z. Weress,

Response No. 24:
FEMA has a Web site There is a library in the Web site. You might find a directive that tells you their requirements.
Dennis Lipp