Police Department temporarily without dispach computer terminal during test

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Seven minutes. A lot can happen in that time, but that’s how long the Salisbury Police Department would need for its generator to jump-start during an emergency.
During a test of their diesel-powered generator Wednesday, department officials discovered the battery backup system, which kicks in for seven minutes while the generator fires up, wasn’t working.
The police department and the Rowan County emergency operations center were temporarily without their dispatch computer terminals.
Salisbury Deputy Chief Rory Collins confirmed the test, saying at no time were the departments without their 911 communication’s phone systems.
“They did not have the ability to dispatch through the computer as they normal would,” Collins said.
The computers were down for 10 minutes, and the office phone system could not receive non-emergency local calls for 15-20 minutes, he added.
“It was a planned event to test the emergency backup,” Collins said.
Officials had been planning the test for a month. The test is a requirement for accreditation and to make sure the system works in the event of a power outage.
“If the power goes out, the generator is designed to automatically come on. In the midst of that happening, the battery backup system kicks in for seven minutes,” he said.
There are areas within the department that are considered vital and non-vital. The records and communications departments are two of those areas.
Normally, all 911 calls are received through phone lines and officers are dispatched to emergencies through a computer terminal.
Calls were still received and officers were dispatched via radios. The police staff borrowed a battery from another city department to start the system.
The Rowan County mobile incident command unit was parked in front of the police department, just in case 911 phone lines lost power.
But, Collins said, it was never used.
“It was brought in just in case we had an interruption in getting local calls, he said.
Collins admitted it was good this was just a test when they discovered the problem.
“We had people here, and should something go wrong, those people would be in place,” he said.
In addition to Collins, there were also an electrician, maintenance staff, emergency operations center staff, a telecommunications manager and information technicians on hand.