Madison Police deal with limited communication during power outage

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MADISON (WKOW) — Power crews are still trying to figure out exactly what caused the mechanical issue that led to substation fires, knocking out power to thousands across Madison.

During that major power outage, the systems running most of Dane County’s police, fire and EMS dispatch lost power and had to go on back up equipment.

Police response was back to normal Saturday after being put to ‘priority only’ for more than 16 hours, because of the explosion and power outages.

“When technology fails you’re reduced to your lowest common denominator and you have to do a lot of improvisation,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said.

He says that that improvisation and creative thinking happened far before the loss of power during their plans to set up for a major power outage.

Plans like temporarily transitioning their critical operations to the Midtown police station.

They still had some major challenges.

“All of our units, literally hundreds of officers, were all on one channel, sharing it,” he said. “So you really can’t speak unless you really have something to say and at that point we’re going one call at a time and only priority calls.”

They weren’t the only ones with issues.

The Dane County Communication Center, which handles calls for fire and EMS along with law enforcement, had to switch to backup systems.

Officials there say even with that, they handled all 911 calls that came in.

Koval says it was a learning experience.

“I think now we need to do a deeper dive into what would we do in the future,” he said. “Would we have to do something through our cellphones, or texting? What would be our backup to the back up, to the back up.”

While the situation was taxing on resources, he noted that people across Madison were very understanding with the challenges and he wanted to thank everyone for their patience.

Francisco Almenara

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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