Lightning knocks out E911 communication

Published 12:34 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lightning has been credited with damaging communications throughout Andalusia Monday.

E911 services went down about 3 p.m., after lightning hit the building, knocking out the communication center’s emergency 911 phone lines. Residents needing emergency assistance were forced to call “seven-digit numbers” to local police departments until just before noon on Tuesday, said E911 director Kristy Stamnes.

Phone technicians worked through the night to trace the location of the strike; however, they were only able to repair the damage it caused.

“We don’t know where it came in at, but luckily, it’s all fixed now,” Stamnes said. “This is the third time we’ve been hit, and we can’t figure out why.”

Stamnes said a recent study of the facility revealed no clues as to why lightning is drawn to the building.

“We were very thankful that even though the lines were down, it wasn’t during our high volume times,” she said, speaking of the hours between lunch and quitting time.

E911 calls were routed to Dothan, who in turn, communicated the emergency calls via regular telephone lines to emergency operators, she said.

Lightning also struck the Andalusia Police Department and WAAO.

Sgt. Mike Hayden said the department lost three computers, a server, a fax machine and radio communications for the better part of the night.

With the exception of one communication panel, the damages have been repaired, Hayden said.

WAAO’s Blaine Wilson said while the station “never went off the air,” the lightning hit an “audio match box,” which allows personnel to monitor the radio signal before its transmitted over the airwaves.

Mike Russell at TV Cable of Andalusia said a few customers reported Internet issues; however, those were quickly resolved.