Lightning strikes Harrison County dispatch radio - - The News for South Mississippi

Lightning strikes Harrison County dispatch radio

Harrison County dispatchers working after lightning shuts down dispatch radios. (Photo source: WLOX News) Harrison County dispatchers working after lightning shuts down dispatch radios. (Photo source: WLOX News)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Lightning is being blamed for shutting down Harrison County's 911 dispatch radios. 

"One of our main power sites took a lightning strike at 7:05 this morning," Harrison County Emergency Communications Deputy Director Gail Bailey said. "It was a large strike, 172,000 amps. Normally we get lightning strikes in the range of 10,000 - 30,000 amps. So we get a strike that large, it's going to disrupt electronics."

It could have been a disaster, 911 operators not being able to dispatch police officers, firefighters or ambulance services over the radio, however those in emergency services are prepared for situations like this.

Dispatchers noticed the radios went quiet right away.

"We have a lot of radio traffic and when a problem develops our dispatchers, telecommunicators, are able to determine they have a problem real quick," Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

As soon as they knew there was a problem dispatchers were able to go to a backup radio. 

"It's just a matter of switching this one button. When the red light comes on they are switched from their main console to the backup console," Bailey explained. 

In a matter of minutes a back up radio system was up and running and within an hour technicians were able to get the normal system working again.

"There was no loss of emergency service availability just simply an inconvenience to the telecommunications and dispatch centers because they didn't have their regular computerized consoles, we went back to the basics," said Bailey. 

Those needing help never knew there was any problem.

"It doesn't happen very often," Bailey said. "We train with the dispatch center. They are familiar with the procedures. They practice and we test the backup equipment on a regular basis just for these type of events."

Since radio communication is so vital, dispatchers in Harrison County have three back up plans for radio communication. If something happened with all those plans they could always use phone communication.

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