Lightning strikes last Friday evening near Martha’s Vineyard Airport knocked out the Dukes County Communications Center’s (DCCC) emergency response dispatching system and damaged one of the airport’s critical computer systems.
Lightning that hit an electric pole next to the Com Center surged through the electric lines and damaged the telephone, radio, and computer system, according to sheriff Michael McCormack, who oversees the DCCC.
An emergency backup system was put in place immediately, with dispatchers sent to the West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs fire departments. Dispatchers at the Com Center continued to receive 911 calls, and relayed them by walkie-talkie or phone to the dispatchers in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury, who in turn called out emergency responders.
Sheriff McCormack said he had to increase the number of dispatchers per shift to man the three locations. He expressed appreciation for the Com Center’s nine dispatchers, who have been working 12-hour shifts.
On Saturday morning an emergency command vehicle shared by the Island’s law enforcement community was connected to the tallest antenna at the airport to aid in dispatching calls.
Yesterday, repair crews were continuing to assess the damage and work on the radios and computers, Sheriff McCormack said. The paging system for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians is back online.
In a phone call Tuesday, Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said there were three lightning strikes around the airport last Friday night, with damage estimated at $105,000. One damaged a generator at the general aviation building. Although another knocked out a critical computer system, the airport’s surge protection system prevented damage to two other computer systems and the phones. Lightning also caused damage to an alarm and pump at the airport’s wastewater treatment plant.
Damage is estimated at $105,000. No flights were canceled because of the outage.
“We’re having to do some alternate procedures, because we don’t have that third computer system, but we already had a backup plan in place, so it’s been implemented and we’re going on with life,” Mr. Flynn said. “I should have that whole other system replaced by Friday.”