Communication Breakdown on Mt. Lee

by George Abrahams

This Daily News article highlights the extreme vulnerability within our communication system – the very system that makes 911 calls save lives, gets fire engines to your home on time, and allows seamless communication between officers, dispatch, etc. This vital communication hub on Mt. Lee was offline for a full 12 hours on Tuesday, April 3rd due to an accident during the testing of a back-up generator. Mayor Villaraigosa attempted to downplay the significance of the communication failure, the magnitude was significant.

Councilman Mitch Englander of the 12th Council District, blamed Tony Royster, the General Services Department General Manager, for the error and is even calling for his head on some bureaucratic platter.

The real fault is with the mayor and the city council. They are responsible for the absence of a fully redundant emergency communication system. While they have been wasting money on pet projects and busy diverting the tax base increment to failed, money-losing CRA projects, our infrastructure has been badly neglected.

I suggest anyone living in Hollywood or Los Angeles, for that matter, do two things right now:

1)    Write to Councilmember.Englander@lacity.org and tell him not to get rid of Royster! This man is being made a scapegoat. There’s no value in adding one more person to the unemployment lines. The City Council and Mayor should take full responsibility for this event.

2)    Write a letter to Sharon.Gin@lacity.org in the City Clerk’s office. Refer to file number 12-0303. This is one more example of why we need to oppose the increased density element of the Hollywood Community Plan Update. Our inadequate infrastructure cannot support the development we currently have.

LAPD Radio System Fails For 12 Hours

Daily News – Rick Orlov, Staff Writer

After Los Angeles Police Department radio communications went down for half the day on Tuesday, a city councilman on Wednesday demanded the firing of the official whose agency caused the problem.

Councilman Mitch Englander said he will call for the dismissal of General Services Department general manager Tony Royster for the power outage Tuesday at Mount Lee, where all LAPD radio communications equipment is housed.

Englander, who is a reserve officer, said General Services crews were sent to the Mount Lee facility – located not far from the Hollywood sign – to test a backup generator. However, he said, the test failed and knocked out all power at Mount Lee, shutting down radio communications.

“It placed the public and officers at extreme risk,” Englander said.

LAPD officials and the Mayor’s Office, however, said backup systems were used that ultimately prevented any serious breakdowns in communication.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the power failure turned into a test of the department’s emergency response operations.

“We were able to handle it without too much of a problem,” Smith said. “We run drills all the time to test our system and that’s what this turned into.”

“It was a good exercise for us. Our center was down for about 12 hours, but we still had communication from the stations to the cars and the car computers never went down.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office was informed of the problem and said backup systems were put into effect.

“When that equipment didn’t work, other redundant systems kicked in at the LAPD,” spokesman Peter Sanders said. “The LAPD successfully handled 911 calls and no emergency responses were threatened.”

Englander, however, insisted that the problem was more serious than that. The communications breakdown meant a delayed response to emergencies, as 911 calls had to be answered manually with operators then calling stations to dispatch an officer, he said.

For officers, he said, the danger came in the form of an inability to get immediate access to information, such as a driver history based on license plates.

“We weren’t able to find out if the person had a record, was being sought for anything or had violent tendencies,” Englander said. “A traffic stop can be the most dangerous stop we make.”

Because the Valley Dispatch Center was also down due to electrical problems, Englander said the department also lost communication with the main Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center.

“They should have checked with the department first and there is no way they would have allowed them to work on Mount Lee until the Valley Dispatch Center’s problem was fixed,” Englander said.

“While the system is back up and operating normally, a failure of the GSD management of this magnitude resulting in the shut down of our most critical system (demands answers),” Englander said. “Whoever is responsible for this lapse needs to be held accountable.”

rick.orlov@dailynews.com

213-978-0390

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