Power Failure on Monday Leads to Downed 911 Lines

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COLUMBIA - A power supply issue at the Boone County Joint Communication Office caused a loss in 911 phone call service for approximately two minutes and twelve seconds on Monday at approximately 11:52 a.m. According to joint communications, that's why it believes a medical emergency for a local businessman didn't reach the 911 center. 

Lee Williams, the general manager at Linen King, started to have a heart attack around 11:45 a.m. Monday morning and his employees said they tried numerous times to reach the 911 service. But when they called, they said no one picked up. The machine that tells the caller their call has been received and to stay on the line did not respond either. William's employees said they rushed him to the hospital in a personal vehicle themselves when they couldn't reach a 911 operator, and were able to get him to a hospital.

Joint communications said the power outage occurred during a weekly test of its backup generator, as per a requirement from the National Fire Protection Association.

"The emergency backup power generator is tested every Monday morning," said Acting Operating Manager Joe Piper. "It gets tested for 90 minutes under load, meaning we work off that generator."

To make the switch between commercial power and generator power, joint communications has an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) system to support the computer and telephone services while the power is switched between sources. But Piper said the UPS system lost power inexplicably during the test, and caused the loss of power for two minutes and twelve seconds. 

It is suspected that a power surge caused the system failure and the loss of power, though a diagnostics report has not been completed yet. Piper said while power losses have happened before, these instances are rare.

"If you look at it historically, it doesn't happen often," Piper said. "We have some pretty good backup systems in place, but nothing is 100 percent."

The UPS system will be replaced on Wednesday and then the old system will undergo a diagnostic test, which could show what went wrong with the previous system.