Work site mistake temporarily cuts communications

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Oops.

Construction workers at Independence and Sprigg streets, inadvertently sliced through a cable that left the Cape Girardeau Police Department and a few administrative offices in city hall without telephone service for an hour and a half Wednesday.

The phone lines went dead about 2:30 p.m., said Tracy Glenn of the city's public relations office. They were restored around 4 p.m.

In between, the police department had to receive its calls from the fire department's main station across the street. Emergency 911 calls automatically bounced over to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department.

Glenn said that the construction crew cut through a cable about two and a half inches thick and blanked out computer screens and fax machines, as well as the telephone service. The cable also contained four trunk lines used for 911 calls. Glenn said that three of those trunk lines were disconnected. The police were able to answer a fourth of the emergency calls coming through on the one trunk line, but the rest were automatically rerouted to the county.

The disruption also cut off radio transmission and the police had to use a backup radio system, which is not as strong as the regular radio, said patrolman Jason Selzer. Despite the difficulty, calls were answered and police cars were dispatched.

"We were answering phones at the fire department, dispatching from here, and 911 calls were going to the county," he said.

After letting the public know through radio and television announcements where to call for police assistance, a police officer with a cell phone set up at the fire station, Selzer said. When a police call came into the fire station, that officer would call another officer with a cell phone at the police station who would relay information to the dispatcher until Southwestern Bell was able to repair the broken cable.

Selzer said the police department may have missed some calls to the main number, but no emergencies went unanswered.

"It was inconvenient," he said. "We lost a couple of calls but 911 kept going."

Most of the rest of the police station had time to reflect on what they did before fax machines and computers.

"The station commander did not get as many phone calls," Selzer said, "and the records clerk did not get any calls. They were able to catch up on a few things."

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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