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Copper thieves strike 911 site

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

Roane Newspapers

Businesses and homeowners aren’t the only ones being affected by copper thieves.

Roane County E-911 Director Mike Hooks reports that a 911 installation on top of Mount Roosevelt was damaged by copper thieves.

The 911 phone service was never lost, but Hooks said the fact that copper thefts can impact the system concerns him.

“If the right things were cut, and the backups weren’t in place, it could put us out of the emergency service business,” Hooks said. “We could have probably taken the calls because that’s on a different system, but we wouldn’t have been able to dispatch the calls.”

The damage was caused last month when bandits tried to swipe copper from an REU power pole, Hooks said. They were lucky they didn’t need to call 911 themselves, because messing around with a power line is a good way to get hurt.

“These people are so brazen that they’ll climb a pole and cut a live power line,” Roane County Emergency Management Director Howie Rose said. “That’s crazy.”

The damage to the power pole caused surges and fluctuations in power, which damaged the 911 site on Roosevelt. A generator and a battery backup system was damaged.

“We build these things in case something like that were to happen we don’t lose serviceability,” Rose said.

The backups are in place to maintain the system during thunderstorms and other acts of nature — not when thieves strike.

“In this instance, the system did what it was supposed to do.” Hooks said. “The backups maintained it until they were able to get there and fix it.”