Spokane Co. radio dispatch goes down for several hours

Spokane Co.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Emergency crews worked hard Thursday to figure out what caused a massive failure of the Spokane County radio dispatch system.

Communications for more than a dozen fire and law-enforcement agencies came to a stand-still from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Wednesday. At the dispatch center, crews said they could answer 911 calls, but they had zero ability to talk to each other.

"We were on the scene of a rather large brush fire, along I-90, when all the communications simply stopped," said Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. "The radio was dead, the network was completely down.”

It forced every on-duty cop, firefighter, paramedic and emergency responder back to a different era of communications. They relied mostly on cell phones and even built an on-scene radio system, all of which took up valuable time in an emergency.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said it was a malfunction that was never supposed to happen at the new central dispatch center, which has only been operational for the last few years.

“It's very dangerous. It's very concerning to the community, and very concerning to the officers and firefighters out in the field,” said Knezovich. “If we would have had a major incident, that could have been the worst case scenario. If we'd had a major fire that could have been the worst case scenario."

Officials said the $40 million system was rebooted and stabilized but it may take until next week to figure out exactly what went wrong. They said the only silver lining is that now, they are developing a backup plan, in case a similar breakdown ever happens again.



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