Guest Commentary: Sheriff Carey Johnson's view on outageFollowing the fiber optic line break Jan. 26 in Duluth, which knocked out all telecommunications in Lake County for about 12 hours, including 911 service, the county board’s Paul Bergman asked emergency personnel and residents to send him letters in reaction to the outage. Here is a letter from Sheriff Carey Johnson.
Following the fiber optic line break Jan. 26 in Duluth, which knocked out all telecommunications in Lake County for about 12 hours, including 911 service, the county board’s Paul Bergman asked emergency personnel and residents to send him letters in reaction to the outage. Here is a letter from Sheriff Carey Johnson.
I am writing this letter to you and the entire Lake County Board of Commissioners in order to express my concerns about the incident that happened Jan. 26. This situation, as you know, caused our 911 system to shut down. We also lost all cell phone coverage, all phone service between exchanges, as well as internet service.
It was a very helpless feeling to have all of these things shut down simultaneously. The frustrating part is that such a seemingly insignificant incident was the cause. The problem that occurred with the line had a tremendous affect on many people, businesses, as well as government entities. It affected most of Lake, Cook, and part of St. Louis counties. We were unable to receive 911 calls for an extended period of time. We had to page out personnel and have them physically man the fire departments, rescue squad buildings, and ambulance garages. We needed to do this in the event that someone was to have an emergency.
Due to the fact that they could not call it in, there needed to be someone available to get the information on to our dispatch in order to get further assistance. Through our emergency manager, we opened the Emergency Operations Center, where we had volunteers assist us with communication abilities.
Later that day, and with help from the Frontier phone company, we were able to get a limited 911 service within each exchange. We did not have 911 services from one exchange to another until many hours later into the evening.
I can’t imagine being in an emergency situation, in need of emergency personnel for myself or a loved one, calling 911 and getting no response. Everyone takes it for granted that when in need, 911 will be there.
That is the way it should be, and was intended to be: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, uninterrupted, and without exception.
This also concerns me from a Homeland Security perspective. I can only hope that our enemies will not see how vulnerable we are and how easy it would be to render us technologically incapacitated.
Lake County has been attempting to find funding for a proposed fiber optics network. I have been told that having a fiber network within our county would have given us the ability in this situation to reroute our 911 calls either to another dispatch or within our own dispatch without interruption. If this is actually a reality, we would not lose our 911 system at all.
For the safety and well-being of all residents and visitors to our county, we cannot afford to be without a 911 system for any amount of time. We need to have a system that can overcome any situation that may arise.