EMS building

The Jefferson County Emergency Services building in Pine Creek Township was hit by lightning recently, causing thousands of dollars in damage to the equipment. The radio tower next to the building attracts lighting.

By Randy Bartley J-D Editor

BROOKVILLE — “August 28 was a pretty busy day,” said Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Tracy Zents Tuesday. It was busy because the Emergency Services building in Pine Creek Township suffered a “severe lightning strike.”

“Due to this strike multiple pieces of equipment servicing the 9-1-1 system were damaged,” said Zents.

“All dispatch console positions were inoperative and reporting communications errors as soon as the system went down,” said Zents. “Dispatchers immediately put into play our back-up system which allowed calls coming into the 9-1-1 center to be processed according to the back-up plan. While we did not have the capability to communicate to field units utilizing on-scene operations channels, we always had communications with the units through our simlu-cast dispatch frequencies. The majority of the damage occurred to network switches and “line cards” that tie all of the systems together and delivers it to the console positions where the dispatchers work stations are.”

Zents said that included interfaces with the 9-1-1 telephony system, Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, administrative phones, interfaces with the county jail, state agencies and the radio console.

“While we are still awaiting for the final costs on some of the needed repairs, the cost at this time exceeds $24,000,” said Zents. “While the majority of the equipment has been repaired, we are still awaiting completion of the interfaces with state agencies through the state’s 800Mhz radio system.

“We do have other means of communicating with the state through back-up systems,” he said.

“The damages could have been extremely higher,” said Zents. He said that several years ago Cearfield County was replacing their radio system that was utilized at the 9-1-1 center. Jefferson County took advantage of that and purchased components from that system at a cost of $2,000 because the system was identical to the one in use in Jefferson County. The components were placed in storage. Those components were used to repair the county’s system following the lightning strike.

“It is estimated that we saved around another $20,000 to $25,000 in repairs,” said Zents.

“The facility is grounded to displace lightning strikes that seem to be attracted to the large radio tower that we have on the site,” said Zents. “When you experience a strike without grounding it would have caused damages well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The grounding did what it was supposed to do and protected the majority of the infrastructure which still allowed all 9-1-1 calls to be processed accordingly. A total of 92 9-1-1 calls came in on that day with a total of 80 calls for service incidents processed. Not one call was lost due to the storm.

“I commend my staff for their efforts,” said Zents. “They did what was expected of them to make sure all calls were processed and our residents got the help they needed.”

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