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Armstrong 911 service restored after 90 minute power loss

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 12:42 p.m.

Emergency officials are trying to determine what knocked Armstrong County's 911 Center out of service for 90 minutes on Wednesday morning and why a battery backup system failed to keep things running.

Officials suspect a power surge knocked all of the facility's computers and phone lines out of service about 10 a.m., said Director Ron Baustert. Service was restored by 11:30 a.m.

Officials are working to determine why the battery backup, known as the Uninterrupted Power System, did not work. The UPS is supposed to keep 911 computers and phones running while backup generators kick in to restore power.

“We really don't know what happened, but we do know there was some sort of failure somewhere in our UPS system,” Baustert said.

During the outage, Baustert said the county stationed a dispatcher at Windstream Communication's Kittanning office to handle calls. He said he is unsure how many calls came in during the outage.

Representatives from the UPS system's manufacturer, Schneider Electric of Rhode Island, have been inspecting it to determine what caused it to malfunction.

After Schneider Electric identifies what caused the problem, Dave Battaglia, chairman of the Armstrong County Commissioners, said officials will discuss if any action needs to be taken.

“Public safety is our top priority, and there's a concern that nothing gets missed,” Battaglia said. “It's a very fluid situation until we know exactly what happened, but once it's identified, the county will do everything humanly possible to keep it from happening again.”

Baustert was unsure how soon the system would be fixed.

“We've bypassed the UPS system completely, and we're now running strictly off of power from the street,” Baustert said. “If there is a power outage, we'll lose everything for 15 to 20 seconds until the backup generators start up and we can reboot our computers and phones.”

The center, behind the Armsdale Building in Rayburn, opened in 2012 and has never lost power or been knocked offline, Baustert said.

“I've never heard of a system failing like this,” Baustert said. “We need to find some kind of safeguard and put it in place to make sure we don't ever have this problem again.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer.

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