Why Did 911 Stop Working During Tuesday's Power Outage?

By: Brendan Ponton Email
By: Brendan Ponton Email

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- During Tuesday's power outage, emergency phones were down for about 10 minutes and people in the city were told that if they had an emergency, they should go to the nearest intersection where an officer was on duty.

So far, firefighters aren't sure what caused the tree to snap, but the power outage lasted for about two hours last night and knocked out the telephone lines of the 911 center for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

It was the first time that's ever happened since the center opened in 2005.

There is a backup generator for the Emergency Communication Center building, but a fuse blew and it went down. The ECC also has battery-type backups to keep the center running; however, those went down too, so no one could call 911 for about 10 minutes.

Harrisonburg Fire Chief Larry Shifflett said this was kind of a freak happening and they as prepared as they could've been, but also says they were lucky.

"To have nothing of major significance happen, now anybody's emergency is significant, but to not have a catastrophic emergency out here that required a bunch of resources or where a bunch of people lost their lives, we're very fortunate that didn't happen," said Shifflett.

The backup generator is tested weekly. Shifflett said anything mechanical can fail and that there are backup plans in place.

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