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Comanche Co. 911 Services Restored After Brief Outage

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COMANCHE CO., Okla_ The combination of today's high winds and some unstable safety equipment are to blame for power outages in Lawton. They even temporarily interrupted Comanche County's 9-1-1 system.

The Public Service Company of Oklahoma said a lightning arrester, which is designed to take the heat if lightning strikes and protect the equipment that the lines are connected to, was shaken loose by the high winds. They said it became so loose that it caused a power failure to 177 customers.

The system was down for between five and 15 minutes. The power shut down around 9:00 AM, but the generator failed to kick in. Then, another backup source kicked in and powered the center for about 45 minutes. When that ran out, the center then connected with other agencies to keep things running.

As crews worked on repairing the center's backup generator, emergency management officials gathered inside coming up with "backups" to their backup plans.

"You hope for the best, and you plan for the worst," Comanche County 911 Director Derrell Morgan said. "With it in mind that we may not be able to get the system online as quickly as we did, we started putting alternate numbers out there to be able to communicate with the emergency operations center and some of the other agencies."

Morgan said when the power first went out, he knew they had a generator that is tested each week. Then, the generator failed. Then, this UPS, or uninterrupted power supply, provided about 45 minutes' worth of power to the system. Then, the UPS's power went out. That's when officials starting gathering resources to keep the system running.

"With Fort Sill, we asked that their front desk go ahead and monitor their guys out in the field," Morgan said. "If we had anything for them with our 911 system, we would give that to them, and they would communicate that and monitor their units. The sheriff's office was monitoring the county radios."

Morgan said of all the agencies, the fire departments were affected the most.  Interim Lawton Fire Chief Dewayne Burk said Wednesday's outage caused a delay in their time-sensitive system.

"It also affected the console system which allows the alarms to be transmitted to the fire stations," Burk said. "So, we had to go to a backup system and basically just do it through hand-held radios."

Morgan said he is proud of the way his crew handled today's interruption. He said these types of ordeals are unforeseen, so they have to be prepared.

"When a generator comes on, it's generally related to an electrical issue with the system," Morgan said. "When the system goes out, a transformer blows out, and it can cause an electrical surge. You never can be 100% sure. That's why we have backups for backups for backups."

Public Service Oklahoma said the lightning arrester that caused the power failure has been fixed. They also said the power failure is a good test for the county. Now, they can make sure their equipment is working in the event of a disaster.

Morgan said today's situation also brings to light a lesson for the community when it comes to seeking help in the event of an emergency.

"If the 911 center is down and we have to go to regular numbers for the police department or the fire department or emergency management, that means that the public has to be ready and pay attention," Morgan said. "So, they can know what those numbers are."

He said having those other numbers handy, or loaded into your phone, should be an important part of your safety plan. 

 

 

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