Lightning from a thunderstorm struck Bowling Green Police Department headquarters Saturday on Kentucky Street, hampering operations at the city’s main downtown dispatch center and forcing communications employees to work from a backup center, where they remain today.
Saturday’s storm marked the first time communications were relocated to the backup center near Greenwood High School.
While technicians determine where repairs are warranted in the system downtown, dispatchers have relocated to the backup center at the Bowling Green Fire Department’s Cherry Farm Lane station in the south end of the city.
“I like the fact we had this station to go to,” said Lori Cooper, one of three dispatchers on duty Monday afternoon at the backup center.
Dispatchers working downtown at the time of the storm used their portable radios to communicate, according to BGPD communications manager Malissa Carter, so there was no disruption in service to people who rely on the dispatchers to send police and firefighters to calls for help.
Communications capabilities were limited by the lightning strike, however, resulting in the decision to relocate to the backup center at the fire station.
The Cherry Farm Lane fire station opened in 2009, and the backup dispatch center began operating at the start of 2011.
Carter said the backup center is a valuable resource and a useful tool for radio communications, law enforcement and firefighters when a sudden emergency could disrupt radio service downtown.
Dispatchers work one shift a month at the backup center, where there are five work stations, to familiarize themselves with the operations there, Carter said, though efforts were made during construction to have the backup center mirror the one at police headquarters, which has seven work stations.
“We wanted a totally redundant site that could operate independently of our downtown headquarters,” Carter said. “If there was a fire or explosion that disabled the equipment there, operations could continue independently out here.”
One dispatcher remains at police headquarters with a portable radio, Carter said, although dispatchers at the backup center can answer 911 calls that come in to the center downtown.
Carter said a part that could bring the downtown center back online is on order, and dispatchers may return to police headquarters as early as this afternoon.
Cooper said there have been very few adjustments to make at the backup center.
“I thought we were very fortunate that the city went with the alternate station for us,” Cooper said.