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Power outage affects thousands

Staff Writer

Recent power outages in Archuleta County disrupted dispatch and emergency communications and left about 4,000 customers without power.

According to LPEA spokeswoman Indiana Reed, Sunday’s snowstorm “caused approximately 100 outages of varying sizes across the county.”

All outages were attributed to snowfall and service was restored to most customers by about 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

The remaining 700 customers without power saw the lights come back on later Sunday afternoon.

A total of 294 customers in the area of Apache Street in south Pagosa Springs received power again at 3:18 p.m.; final line repairs were completed by LPEA crew members around 8:30 p.m.

Final repairs took longer than expected due to extremely muddy conditions.

Reed reported in an e-mail to The SUN that, “LPEA’s crews put in 176 man-hours [on Sunday]. All operations personnel were working throughout the day, and worked 14 to 18 hours each that day.”

Reed also wanted to clarify from LPEA’s previous press release for The SUN online that the 6:59 a.m. outage involving the 69kv Tri-State breaker occurred with an LPEA line, not a Tri-State line, though the problem did occur at a Tri-State substation.

Dispatch phone lines were also down Sunday morning due to the outages.

According to an e-mail sent to The SUN by Carl Nevitt, manager at Archuleta County Combined Dispatch, “Everything (as in the backup redundant systems) worked as designed.”

Nevitt reported that, “there was also a great response from the Emergency Operations Center, Pagosa Fire and EMS agencies. Everyone worked hard to ensure that communications was established quickly with our backup systems.”

All 9-1-1 calls were immediately forwarded to the La Plata County dispatch center until Archuleta’s lines could be restored.

According to Nevitt, CenturyLink, the dispatch communications provider, “receives an alarm when [9-1-1 lines are down]and they call me on my cell, and others in the center, and advise they are redirecting the calls.”

When emergency response lines are restored, Nevitt firsts tests the lines, then informs CenturyLink to redirect local 9-1-1 calls back to Archuleta County dispatch.

The most recent outage caused calls to be redirected for “about 49 minutes during which time [Archuleta dispatch] received 2 non-emergent type calls on a special radio channel developed just for these types of incidents.”

The radio is referred to as a multi-agency communication, or “MAC,” channel. The channel is set up across Southwest Colorado and is used primarily during multi-county and multi-agency incidents.

According to Nevitt, “After communication is established using this channel, responders are directed to use another channel or phone for incident operations.”

Cell phone numbers of workers for the multiple agencies are kept on file as another means of MAC communication.

In addition to emergency lines being down, dispatch administrative lines were also out of commission for part of Sunday. The loss of administrative lines may be responsible for the non-emergency 9-1-1 calls relayed over the MAC channel.

After administrative lines were restored, Nevitt stated that dispatch received 15 or more phone calls from residents inquiring when power would be back on.

According to Reed, there are several ways customers can remain updated about power outages without having to call dispatch.

First, Reed says to follow LPEA on Twitter. The networking site is one of the first places outage information will be posted.

Second, LPEA’s website, www.lpea.com, has an Outage Status Map which is updated automatically every minute with real-time information.

Third, Reed said customers can tune-in to local radio stations for updates throughout the outage period.

The SUN online will also feature updated news from LPEA during an outage.

Finally, Reed stated that, when customers call in to report an outage, their phone number is automatically saved. In the case of an extreme outage, those customers may receive a call when electricity is back on.

It should be noted that callback service will only occur after very large outages.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on March 6, 2014.