Officials study effect of power outages Police, fire phone lines disrupted after storms

June 18, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Howard County officials are investigating two recent disruptions in police and fire communications caused by storms on separate nights.

They say a power outage Saturday night nearly shut down the 911 center for 30 minutes. A Monday evening lightning strike disabled radio communications for an hour and a half.

"Safety was never compromised," said Richard Biggs, director of technology and communications services for Howard County. "This shouldn't happen. Over the next several weeks, we're going to critique the whole process."

The Monday lightning strike of a radio tower behind Howard High School damaged a crucial computer component. It disrupted most radio communications and forced operators to dispatch police from fire stations or by calling officers on their cellular phones.

Though the county has six radio towers, all of them stopped broadcasting. Biggs said he hoped engineers would develop a way to keep undamaged towers working during future incidents.

On Saturday night, a storm caused a power failure at the 911 center, which is in the basement of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. The storm knocked out computers and most telephones. Operators used eight emergency telephones to dispatch police. Power was restored in 33 minutes, Biggs said.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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