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Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Can you hear me now, 9-1-1? 1The digits by themselves are just digits. But put together, 9 and 1 are life-savers all across America. And like the digits themselves, we have always expected 9-1-1 to be there for us when we need it. Digits are supposed to be universally reliable.

In northern Virginia recently, however, that area realized the danger of combining infinite reliability of numbers with human-made technology that is fallible.

Could you imagine having an emergency and actually not being able to get through to emergency services by dialing 9-1-1? And what if something serious occurred where a person died because of a lack of medical attention in a timely fashion?

That very real risk occurred in northern Virginia when several counties suffered an outage from phone-service provider Verizon (ironically, the company with the well-known “Can you hear me now?” commercials) which impacted thousands of people for several hours. Emergency services officials said they were able to establish a “work-around” so people could still call in, but there were options to contact a non-emergency number or to send a text.

While there is no word as to the impact the outage had in terms of missed emergency calls or any injury that was exacerbated by the outage, but officials say the outage was resolved quickly and some backups were put in place to ensure such an outage does not happen again.

Emergencies can happen at any time, so we have come to count on the ability to contact emergency services any time of day or night and we expect to hear a helpful voice on the other end of the line – even at 3 a.m. So when an injury occurs and emergency support is needed, it can increase panic level and decrease the odds of survival if emergency crews cannot be dispatched in a timely manner.

A time without emergency services can feel like total chaos, and the probability of injury occurring or being exacerbated are increased in the middle of chaos. When chaos occurs, it may be necessary to seek legal counsel to help you see the order and understand how the chaos happened and help you establish your rights even in a chaotic situation.

We all expect the 9-1-1 system in our community to always be available because injury and disease that require emergency attention need immediate help. Seconds do count, and your legal rights count even in an outage situation such as what happened in northern Virginia. Time does not suspend in an emergency, and neither do your rights to quality and expedient care in an emergency. Life is your right, and that life should be protected by any means necessary, especially when seconds can make all the difference.