And last week, many readers wanted to know about the one that led to the power outage at the Fort Smith Police Department (FSPD).
Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, FSPD Public Affairs Office, said “a small fire in the control panel” of the backup generator was discovered around 30 minutes after a power outage that affected “several blocks of downtown Fort Smith” was to blame for the police department’s blackout on Tuesday (July 31).
“At the time of the power failure the generator started and ran for approximately 30 minutes without any problems. It appears a component of the generator, the voltage regulator, malfunctioned melting the amp gauge causing the fire inside the control panel which resulted in complete destruction of the control panel. This is the first time we have ever had the emergency generator fail during use or during weekly testing. The generator is 14 years old and has logged just over 1,000 hours of operation. The lifespan of a generator of this type averages 14,000+ hours.”
Grubbs confirmed that the FSPD has only one backup generator, though the department “does maintain portable generators for various small equipment.”
“A second fully functional backup generator is not a plausible option, but the cost could possibly exceed $100,000,” Grubbs said. “The Fort Smith Police Department has a redundant system by way of a U.P.S. (Uninterrupted Power Supply). At the moment of primary power fail, battery backup supply initiates until the backup generator takes over. If the generator fails, the battery backup supply immediately reinitiates, but only has a battery life of approximately one hour. Lastly, the building does have power line redundancy through OG&E. In the event the main line power source will be long term affected, OG&E has the ability to ‘back feed’ our department through a different power station source.”
According to the official police report, the initial power outage occurred at 4:32 p.m. Tuesday. Entities affected by the outage were the FSPD, Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, and Sebastian County Courthouse. Around 5 p.m., the backup generator failed, leaving the FSPD completely without power.
The fire, which knocked out the generator, was described as “very minor,” but did require response from the Fort Smith Fire Department. At that point, “all emergency 911 calls were forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office. In addition, Fort Smith Communications personnel were temporarily relocated to the Sheriff’s Office to handle the 911 calls. At no time during this incident were emergency 911 services interrupted,” the report states.
Primary power was restored to the affected area at approximately 6:05 p.m, while non-emergency phone services for the FSPD were restored “by 7:45 p.m.,” with emergency 911 phone services and personnel returning to the police department about 90 minutes later.
TESTING AND COSTS
When asked how the police department prepares for situations like the one that occurred, Grubbs responded: “The police department does weekly and monthly tests under load on its generator. The weekly test occurs every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. These tests have never produced a failure. Furthermore, the generator has undergone numerous live tests due to city power outages caused by weather and human related events.”
Grubbs said the police department replaced its 20-year-old 800 MHz radio system starting with phase one of a $13 million project in 2006.
“These funds were used to build new radio towers, remodel FSPD 911 communication center, provide AWIN (Arkansas Wireless Information Network) equipment in Little Rock, upgrade police and fire radios. Additionally, funds were used to supply other city departments new radios. Remaining funds were spent in 2011 to build a multi-agency Emergency Operation Center disaster recovery data center. The EOC data center houses the police department’s four backup 911 radio consoles. A new generator was not included for the Police HQ’s in the radio system architecture completed in 2005.”
Grubbs continued: “The City replaced its aging phone system with an IP-based phone system in early 2006. In 2008, the twelve-year-old 911-phone system was replaced using funds from the Sebastian County 911 revenue account.”