Northern Arizona – Telecommunications technicians with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) recently faced harrowing trips up isolated, snow-covered mountains and freezing temperatures to keep critical communications systems online for first responders in Arizona.
Last week’s massive snowstorms in northern Arizona threatened to cut radio communications for many of the State’s first responders as a result of mountain top communications towers and related equipment experiencing technical difficulties as a result of heavy snowfall. An interruption in radio communications services during the storm could have proved devastating to first responders in northern Arizona as they were battling to assist stranded motorists, plow snow covered roads, and assist with other storm-related emergencies.
The AZDPS telecommunications technicians were first called into action during the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 21 after receiving failure warnings from a communications site in Northeastern Arizona. The technicians knew they needed to respond quickly in order to ensure that emergency communications capabilities for first responders in Northeastern Arizona would be available.
The dedicated AZDPS telecommunications engineer Phoenix and a technician from Showlow were dispatched to the site to make an assessment of the situation. The pair reached the site just before mid-night after a treacherous journey up the mountain in a Snow Cat and ultimately made a repair which kept the site online. After they completed their repair, these dedicated State employees spent the night atop the cold mountain in the communications shelter so that they could test their repair the following morning and ensure that it would continue supporting the first responders during the storm.
That very same night at around 10 p.m., a critical communications site on Mt. Ord along the Beeline Highway lost commercial power due to the storm, and eventually lost its backup generator. At that point, the site was only operating on a backup battery which was its last line of defense before failure.
Two AZDPS Generator Technicians were dispatched to that site on the morning of January 23rd. These technicians were able to make a repair to get the generator back online, saving the site from going completely offline when the batteries ran out. Had the site failed, emergency communications capabilities for first responders would have been limited from Phoenix to Payson along S.R. 87.
Had the two sites failed simultaneously, radio communications would have been seriously limited for a portion of Northeastern Arizona. Such actions of the dedicated AZDPS employees are a testament to the vital support that professional staff provide to the troopers, citizens and other government agencies across Arizona.