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'Catastrophic failure' hits Belknap County emergency dispatch system

LACONIA - The Belknap County Sheriff's Office experienced a "catastrophic failure" Monday night that took out its radio dispatching communications system for about two hours, according to Sgt. William Wright.

Dispatchers called police departments in nine towns to let them know of the emergency situation, Wright said. He explained that the office had working landlines and cellphones, and patrol officers still could communicate with each other between cruisers. As of Tuesday morning, what caused the communication system to shut down is still a puzzle.

Wright said something happened between the microwave link and the PC (printed circuit board) card.

"We have 30 PC cars in the radio room and each single card had to be reset," he explained.

He said the system was upgraded recently so it would work smoothly with the New Hampshire State Police communications systems, and in the past two weeks, the department began using the new communications tower on Belknap Mountain. Still, he said the main body of the dispatching equipment and consoles are between 20 and 30 years old, and system failures are becoming more frequent, although nothing like Monday night's. He said it is becoming harder and harder to find parts to make repairs.

The office is hopeful its application for a $297,000 grant to replace the aging equipment will be granted by the state Department of Safety, Homeland Security & Emergency Management.


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