July 4, 2013

Backup systems work after lightning strike at Whitfield 911 Center

By Mitch Talley Whitfield County Director of Communications

— The bad news is that a lightning strike last Thursday at 9:59 a.m. damaged some of the equipment at the Whitfield County 911 Center.

The good news is that people making calls to 911 never noticed, thanks to a backup plan that went off without a hitch.

Emergency Services Director Claude Craig praised the employees who were working at the 911 Center that day on the job they did working through the situation and bouncing back from the strike, along with the county’s Information Technology and Buildings and Grounds departments and private companies that are contracted to repair damage of this kind.

The center never lost power and had no electrical problems because of the strike, Craig said. Equipment designed to take the brunt of a strike to save other vital equipment did its job.

“The biggest thing was we couldn’t operate the radio system through the computer system it’s supposed to run through,” he said, “to dispatch the responders to wherever they needed to go. Therefore, we had to activate our Emergency Operations Plan. We put our backup radio system into operation and basically never lost a beat. If you were a citizen of the county and you had called 911 during that time you would have never known anything was different. There was no disruption of service whatsoever.”

Craig said the most important equipment should have been fully restored to normal operations by Wednesday.

That’s more good news considering the fact that weather forecasters are warning that Whitfield County will be hit with more heavy rain and thunderstorms through the weekend, thanks to a system that may deliver as much as 4 inches of rainfall to northern and western Georgia by Friday.

“Local residents can rest easier knowing that the backup plan we implemented worked the way it was supposed to,” Craig said, “and no calls from the public were ever affected as a result of the lightning damage last week.”

If the 911 Center ever were to go down completely, calls would be automatically switched in a split second to Gordon County 911 until the system here was brought up again, Craig said.

“At no time last week were we in a position to have to do that, however,” he said.

Another temporary backup system — Public Safety Answering Point — is installed in the county’s Mobile Communications Vehicle that is stationed somewhere away from the 911 Center, “but we never had to entertain the thought of moving to that, either,” Craig said.

“Basically, we never lost any of our capabilities because we had a backup plan,” he said,” and it worked.”