Multiple lightning strikes hike Pulaski County 911 Center's insurance bill
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (April 8, 2010) — It’s difficult to avoid expensive lightning strikes when an organization owns an antenna sticking hundreds of feet into the air on a high hill and connected by electrical wire to costly computer and radio equipment, and the Pulaski County 911 Center has had repeated problems in recent years with lightning knocking out portions of its operations.
Members of the Pulaski County 911 Board learned Thursday afternoon that their insurance deductible will rise from $1,000 to $10,000 due to multiple lightning strikes.
The new policy will cost $9,780 per year for all the buildings, vehicles and liability insurance. When a new repeater tower is added on Highway Z to improve reception, that cost will have to be added to the policy.
Pulaski County 911 Director Michelle Graves said other companies declined to bid because the county had two lightning strikes. A specialist in electrical wiring has reviewed the procedures in place to prevent lightning strikes on the 911 antenna, Graves said, and his report is expected soon.
“On the liability side, they looked at the building, they looked at the tower and then he went through and looked at every grounding source of control,” Graves said. “If we can hire a professional grounding person to come in and test, it’s expensive, but he gives you options of other things you can do.”
Graves said she will be giving documentation of the work done by York Electric to show that Pulaski County 911 personnel have been trying to decrease likelihood of major losses from electrical strikes, and told board members that she asked how long the Pulaski County 911 Center would have to go without having a lightning strike or having any kind of claims in order to go back to the premium the organization had before.
“He didn’t have an answer and said we would have to check with the underwriter or the insurance company writing the policy,” Graves said, later clarifying that she meant to ask how long it would take before the Pulaski County 911 Center would be eligible for its original $1,000 deductible.
“Most insurance companies never decrease your premium,” said board member Doug Yurecko.
Other items in the 911 Center also need to be repaired or replaced, including an emergency generator and air conditioners. Graves said a generator used for the 911 building no longer works.
“It’s the generator that doesn’t work, not the motor,” Yurecko said. “The motor runs, it just doesn’t gen. It did until somebody tried to adjust it down there, I think.”
Two of the four air conditioning units that were installed when the building was built in 2004 have gone bad since the building was built, Graves said, and because they were purchased with only a one-year warranty, they’ll have to be replaced.
“Remember last year when we had one of our original conditioning units out here? We had one of them go bad. It’s the coil and they priced it; with the coil and the labor and the maintenance it’s $2,200 to $2,300 (for repair costs) and the whole unit is cheaper to get,” Graves said. “The other day when I started turning the hall units and the basement unit from heat over to cool because of the temperature, I realized that the lobby and the reception area to my office wasn’t cooling; it was just the fan kicking on.”
Graves said a check of the problem showed that a coil on a second unit is now going bad.
“We’re back at square one that it’s going to be cheaper to get another unit than to get a coil, Freon and the labor,” Graves said.
Graves told board members she was advised that the 911 Center “can get by” with a 3.5-ton unit which would cost $1,450, or the board could pay $1,600 for a four-ton unit.
“It’s up to you what you guys want to replace it with,” Graves said.
Board member Jeff Porter said a smaller unit might cost more to run because it would cool less air and therefore turn on more often; board members agreed to pay $1,600 for a new four-ton unit.
Graves said it should be possible to install the new air conditioner by Tuesday, and said that because the dispatch room has its own air conditioning unit, and that cool air is feeding to the basement equipment room, there’s no danger for now to expensive computer and radio equipment that requires cool temperatures to operate properly.
“I think the weather is going to be cool so it’s not affecting the dispatch or the equipment room,” Graves said.
“It’s like 30 degrees down there,” Yurecko said.
In other business:
• Graves said the 911 repeater tower should soon be installed on a water tower on Highway Z that will serve emergency responders on the far east side of the county, including Devil’s Elbow. Responding to questions, Graves said she’ll be keeping two keys for access to the antenna equipment.
• Graves said a new system implemented by Pulaski County 911 will send a text message to a designated person in the emergency agencies with the call that went out, the time, crew, and address; responding to questions from chair, she said that information can also be sent to email.
• Graves said she’s heard nothing more from Pulaski County Commissioner Don McCulloch about a proposal to move county radio transmission antennas such as those used by the sheriff’s department to the county tower and away from a rented tower owned by a private company.
“I briefed you earlier that Commissioner McCulloch had called me about the antennas. I hadn’t heard anything else so I’m just not going to keep bringing that up at every meeting,” Graves said. “There’s no reason unless I hear something from them. It’s a moot point unless I hear something from them.”
• Graves said she attended a Missouri telecommunications conference for 911 personnel with three dispatchers who had not been there before, and said staff members will be observing National Telecommunicator Week from April 11 to April 17.
“I’ll let them wear shorts to work one day and dress casual and one way I’ll order in pizza for them … I have a list of things I can do every day,” Graves said. “It’s neat; I put up telecommunicator poems to just make them know how important they are and how they are the first responders. We do that every year.”