Napa’s Public-Safety Network Holds Up After Earthquake
Friday, September 05, 2014 | Comments

All five sites that serve the public-safety communications network in Napa County survived the earthquake that struck South Napa, California, Aug. 24.

“We have five sites that included the simulcast transmit locations, as well as voting receive sites,” said Mike Flud, RF communications technician for the county’s Public Safety Communications Division. “One location in American Canyon near the epicenter went on generator for a short period, as power was disrupted there, but none of the sites went down amazingly enough.”

Napa County has VHF high-band conventional systems for law and fire communications. The system hosts a dozen or more city and county law, fire and public-safety agencies with hundreds of users. The network’s five sites are all connected via 6 GHz microwave, which held up well. The topography consists of coastal mountain ranges separated by lush valleys prime for the famous grape-growing region.

Dispatch is contracted through the city of Napa. The damaged AT&T central office in the downtown district gave concern that the 9-1-1 system might be disrupted, but problems were averted, said Flud.

Napa Police Chief Richard Melton said the 9-1-1 system remained online, but the wireless problems affected mobile data computers in police and fire units, an ABC news team in Napa reported. "Both in terms of the field units and in dispatch we had some display issues temporarily,” Chief Melton said to ABC News’ Dan Noyes. “We had radio contact, which is our primary way of communicating."

“The IT/telephone side of the house had their hands full and still do as several of the damaged buildings were occupied by county departments, and their staff needed to be relocated immediately to new locations without this infrastructure in place,” Flud said. “This work continues with hopes of completion in the coming days.”

Commercial wireless companies saw a spike in network traffic from family members checking on each other and 9-1-1 calls to report injuries. After the earthquake occurred, Verizon said it added capacity to local cell sites to handle the increase in traffic. Several Verizon sites in the area operated on backup batteries and generators during the commercial power outage. Verizon deployed portable generators to power cell sites where permanent generators are not permitted, keeping voice and data service running until commercial power was restored later that day, the carrier said in a statement.

Flud said the response for assistance was overwhelming. Following is a partial list of vendors and agencies that offered help: Apex Industries; Aviat Networks; Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications; Motorola Solutions; TESSCO Technologies; and the counties of Marin, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma.

“The cleanup, recovery and restoration efforts from the public-safety radio system standpoint are continuing and are going well,” Flud said. “Our heartfelt thanks again go out to everyone who has offered whatever we needed to keep our public-safety system going.”

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