New Orleans radio system flooded

Operation of the New Orleans police radio system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been plagued not only by floodwaters but by a lack of natural gas to power generators.

Not only that, Louisiana State Police turned away repair technicians when they attempted to reach the city, according to an on-scene report the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International relayed to Federal Computer Week.

The report, contained in an e-mail Wednesday from Dominic Tusa, a communications consultant in Covington, La., to Willis Carter, chief of communications for the Shreveport, La. fire department said the New Orleans Police Department’s dispatch center on the second floor of police headquarters was flooded. The police were forced to relocate to the nearby Hilton Hotel.

Tusa said the police department’s citywide 800 MHz radio system functioned well during and immediately after the hurricane hit New Orleans, but since then natural gas service to the prime downtown transmitter site was disrupted and the generator was out. Transmitter sites for the police radio system “are also underwater with the rising water and [are] now disabled,” Tusa said.

Owners of the sites that housed police radio transmitters would not allow installation of liquefied petroleum gas tanks as a backup to piped gas, meaning generators did not have any fuel when the main lines were cut, Tusa said.

Radio repair technicians attempting to enter the city were turned away by the state police, even though they had letters from the city police authorizing their access, Tusa said.

In contrast to the problems in New Orleans, Tusa said the Harrison County, Miss., Department of Public Safety’s radio system, which serves Gulfport and Biloxi, remained fully operational throughout the storm and continued to operate afterward. He added that the system has experienced generator problems, “but those are being resolved as they crop up. “

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