Grant to help improve emergency communications in Davis County

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 12:35 p.m. MDT

FARMINGTON — Last December's big windstorm, proved to be a big wake-up call for the Davis County Sheriff's Office.

Now it’s getting a $10,000 grant deputies said might save them in the next big emergency.

Early morning on Dec. 1 emergency calls started to pour in from Davis County's worst windstorm in more than a decade. 

"It was awful busy," Dispatch manager Tom Norvelle said. "It was tremendous, probably the busiest I've seen it in my 20 years here. Calls were coming in one after another."

So many calls were coming in that a channel out of Layton couldn’t be used. "It was to the point where we were pretty locked out for a while,” he said. "You go to transmit to tell a unit you need them to respond to a location, and you can't get out of the system."

During a 12-hour period, the dispatch center handled nearly 1,400 calls, dispatching crews to more than 600 incidents. The storm blasted the area with hurricane-force winds, blowing over semitrailers, toppling trees, downing power lines, closing schools and creating extensive property damage.

Power outages were widespread in the county and, in some instances, power was not restored for days. Public and private golf courses suffered tree losses in the hundreds and some businesses reported losses as high as $250,000.

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said winds were clocked as high as 104 mph — or hurricane strength. Gov. Gary Herbert activated the Utah National Guard in the ensuing days to help with cleanup.

"It woke us up and we said, 'If this could happen statewide, on a wide scale, over an extended period of time, oh my gosh, we need some protection in one identified area,’" Davis County Sheriff’s Lt. Brad Wilcox said.

Sheriff's deputies said the solution now is to build a backup system that could take on some of those excess calls during the next big emergency.

"Whether or not it would save us, we don't know," Wilcox said. "But at least it's something to proactively look at."

With that federal grant, the Davis County Sheriff's Office hopes to have the mutual aid repeater built sometime next month.

Along with that, there will also be some additional training on how it handles those challenging days. 

Contributing:  Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: manderson@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS