REPORT: ALL EMERGENCY SERVICES INTACT DURING 8-2-02 BLACKOUT

REPORT: ALL EMERGENCY SERVICES INTACT DURING 8-2-02 BLACKOUT

The regional power outage of Aug. 2, 2002, did not affect Doña Ana County’s ability to receive and process emergency calls, according to the director of the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Center.

MVRDA Director Eddie Goldsmith said all of the county’s critical communications systems remained operational on back-up power provided by diesel-powered generators located outside the MVRDA office complex.

“We immediately assumed all emergency dispatch functions for Sunland Park and daily functions of Hatch police, fire and ambulance,” Goldsmith said.

He said that within an hour of the onset of the power outage, MVRDA‘s 911 systems were being overloaded by non-emergency calls, which were automatically routed to non-emergency lines, resulting in no loss of calls.

Goldsmith said that additional staff was onsite to handle increased call volumes, and the backup system at the county’s Emergency Operations Center was put on standby mode. Had power remained out for a significant period, he said, the EOC would have declared a regional emergency and begun coordinating responses in conjunction with MVRDA.

As a precaution, the Las Cruces Police Department’s Mobile Command Post was placed in a parking lot across from MVRDA to provide additional support and emergency coordination.

Goldsmith said that the LCPD SWAT team also was placed on standby in case of criminal behavior associated with the power outage.

In addition, Goldsmith said, MVRDA staff closely monitored the status of area hospitals and medical facilities to determine the status of their backup power systems. Also monitored during the outage were area cell phone towers with backup power.

Because El Paso Electric was able to begin reactivating power in the city within about an hour of the initial outage, Goldsmith said a decision was reached not to activate the Emergency Operations Center or implement the regional All Hazards Contingency Plan.

“At no time during the entire incident was public safety put in jeopardy, Goldsmith said. “All of our contingency and backup plans came together seamlessly. We view this as a useful drill of our preparedness level, and our post-incident evaluation shows us that we are capable of dealing with a large-scale situation effectively. Our entire team is to be congratulated.”

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.