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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Terror-attack planning helped police, fire crews

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Local law enforcement and emergency response personnel said their planning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks helped them handle the situation that arose after yesterday's blackout.

“In a way, planning after 9/11 put us in pretty good shape. We called in our countywide team, and things are going pretty smoothly,” Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said.

Within 30 minutes after the outage, city and county authorities gathered in the emergency operations center in the basement of the Lucas County jail to field phone calls and check maps and charts of the city and the region.

Toledo police and fire crews didn't respond to low-priority calls, such as noninjury accidents, parking complaints, downed power lines, or trees on fire, which are common summertime occurrences.

The Lucas County 911 building and other emergency services buildings, such as fire stations, worked on backup diesel generators. Police officers used generators to help re-power their radio batteries.

Chief Navarre said the worst situations police faced were traffic problems.

“The timing of this particular blackout couldn't have been at a worse time, with rush-hour traffic,” he said. “In some places, we have virtual gridlock. Traffic is our No. 1 problem.”

Portable stop signs were set up at about a dozen locations throughout Toledo, such as Summit and Cherry streets and Cherry and Bancroft Street. Officers also directed traffic. Authorities reported no serious accidents or injuries.

As a precautionary measure, Chief Navarre said officers working the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift were asked to report to work early. The extra patrols were called in to help watch for serious crimes that might occur, such as burglars entering businesses and houses where alarms might not have been working because of the outage.

Chief Navarre said he also was concerned about looters. He said authorities received one call of looting, which turned out to be erroneous.

He said noon-to-8 p.m. shifts would be held over if necessary and the midnight shift might be called in early if problems overnight arose.

Assistant Toledo Fire Chief Mike Wolever said firefighters responded to about a half-dozen people stuck in elevators. A nurse was trapped in an elevator at the county jail, and a city employee was stuck in an elevator at Government Center. Both were at or near the first floor of the buildings.

About a half-dozen of the fire department's command staff were called to help at the dispatch center, and a few dispatchers were held over their regular shifts.

Extra county sheriff's corrections officers were called in to help with any hazards inside the county jail, which was running on auxiliary power, Sheriff James Telb said. Several inmates were heard pounding on the jail windows from the street below. One was moved to an area away from the windows, the sheriff said.

Chief Navarre said authorities received a lot of inquiries about the outage and asked residents to call authorities only for emergencies because the lines were getting jammed.



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