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Bluegrass 911 Explains March 3 Outage

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Bluegrass 911 are blaming the 911 outage earlier this month on the windstorm and an overload of 911 calls.

“The 911 system just got overloaded, ” said Russ Clark, 911 director for Bluegrass 911 Communications, which has handled handled 911 operations for Harrodsburg, Burgin and Mercer County for nearly two years. Clark said a switch went out and it took his personnel a while to get it up and running again.

The weather siren that sits on top of the Harrodsburg Post Office. (File image).

On Friday, March 3, an intense low pressure system produced violent thunderstorms, dangerous winds, flooding and several small tornadoes. Wind gusts of 73 miles per hour were recorded in Mercer County, according to the National Weather Service.

Clark said Bluegrass 911 Central Communication Center, which is located in Lancaster, was also dealing with a series of power outages that caused one of the radio frequencies to trip out.

According to Mercer County Emergency Management Director Brad Cox, the 911 phone lines went out, followed by a failure in dispatch operations. Cox said two volunteers helped run the radio room at county emergency management, taking calls from Bluegrass 911, then communicating with first responders over the radio.

Bluegrass 911 was able to resume full operations by approximately 9 p.m. that night, Clark said.

“Once they got the switch rebuilt, everything became operational,” he said.

Clark noted Bluegrass 911 was not the only system to deal with service disruptions on March 3, with the Kentucky State Police reporting outages in Mayfield.

Bluegrass 911 was formed by the Garrard and Lincoln County Fiscal Courts. The Mercer County Fiscal Court and the Harrodsburg City Commission voted to close Harrodsburg Dispatch and merge 911 operations with Bluegrass 911 in July 2021, citing ongoing staffing issues and the costs of running the department, which include hardware and software.

Clark said they’ve never experienced an outage “to this depth and detail” before. He said the only outage close to this was in 2020, when Anthony Quinn Warner of Antioch, Tennessee, detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in downtown Nashville on December 25, 2020, near an AT&T facility. According to media reports, the explosion caused outages in cellular, telephone, internet, and internet-based television services, as well as 911 emergency phone networks.

“We’ve never seen anything statewide like this before,” Clark said.

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