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Frozen generator hinders Lee County's 911 service

Officials seek ways to prevent repeat

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

DIXON – A power outage, combined with a frozen generator, put Lee County’s dispatchers out of service for a while Jan. 6.

But calls were immediately routed through Carroll County’s 911 center, an official told the Lee County Board on Tuesday.

At 6:20 a.m. Jan. 6, Shelley Dallas, director of Lee County’s 911 agency, received a call from one of the dispatchers that they had lost power. But their computers still were on and they could respond to calls – the result of a short-term power supply at the center.

A half-hour later, though, the agency lost all of its power, the result of an outage that affected more than a thousand ComEd customers in Dixon.

To make matters worse for 911, the generator was not working because it was frozen.

Dallas said it was the first time in her experience since the 1990s that there had been such a problem.

The Dixon Police Department brought over a battery pack, but that failed to get the generator working. However, after some attempts with the manual start, officials finally succeeded in getting it going by 8:30 a.m., Dallas said.

“The only calls received during that time were about the power outage,” Dallas said. “There weren’t any true emergency calls.”

The agency’s contingency plan, she said, worked “seamlessly,” a process that included informing Sauk Valley Media, which sent out a text alert. Dallas and dispatchers also informed neighboring agencies about the situation, she said.

Officials are figuring out how to prevent the problem from reoccurring, Dallas said. They are considering building a shelter around the generator or replacing the equipment, which is nearly 2 decades old.

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