Lightning strike cripples 911 system

Published 11:01 am Friday, June 24, 2011

An early evening lightning strike Thursday has significantly damaged the county’s 911 center, leaving it in partial operation.

“We took a massive hit and have a massive amount of damage,” Lonnie Best, 911 director, said Friday morning. “It will cost a lot of money. This is not $10,000 or $15,000. This is going to be way up there.”

As of 8 a.m. Friday there were only two phone lines at the Park Avenue center working. However, immediately after the lightning strike emergency personnel re-routed county emergency calls through the Gallia County 911 operation.

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“The number one concern when you talk about 911 is the safety of the residents of Lawrence County,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “They acted swiftly and appropriately to ensure the safety of the residents.”

The strike happened at 7:20 p.m. Thursday and knocked out the 911 dispatch system, the alarm system and the radios.

“It knocked out my backup radio,” Best said.

Immediately 911 calls were transferred to Gallia’s center, which in turn sent them back to the appropriate agencies like the Ironton Police and sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office would notify 911 about EMS calls. The Lawrence system was then able to dispatch the calls to the ambulance service via the MARCS portable radios.

However, until the 911 computers are restored, calls will continue to go to Gallia County.

AT&T service representatives were at the center through the night and Emergitech out of Columbus was expected this morning to work on the 911 computer system.

“This is not going to be a repair that happens today,” Best said. “It will happen over the next several weeks. We will be back in service and serve the public. To get back to 100 percent a lot will have to be replaced. But at no time was anyone left in danger. We were never off the air. Gallia took over where we couldn’t. I owe them a big debt of gratitude.”