DPS: Recent snowstorms imperiled AZ emergency radio systems

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Damage to mountaintop radio towers caused by storms threatened to cut radio communications, DPS said. (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) Damage to mountaintop radio towers caused by storms threatened to cut radio communications, DPS said. (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Recent massive snowstorms that hit northern Arizona threatened to cut radio communications for many of the state’s first responders.

Technical difficulties arose on mountaintop radio towers impacted by heavy snowfall and Arizona Department of Public Safety engineers had to make treacherous journeys to complete repairs.

 “An interruption in radio communications services during the storm could have proved devastating to first responders in northern Arizona as they were battling to assist stranded motorists, plow snow-covered roads, and assist with other storm-related emergencies,” DPS said in a statement on Monday.

DPS telecommunications technicians received failure warnings on Saturday, Jan. 21, from a communications site in northeastern AZ. A DPS engineer from Phoenix and a technician from Show Low reached the site after making a harrowing ride up the mountain in a Snow Cat.

“After they completed their repair, these dedicated State employees spent the night atop the cold mountain in the communications shelter so that they could test their repair the following morning and ensure that it would continue supporting the first responders during the storm,” DPS said.

In a separate failure, a critical communication site on Mt. Ord along the Beeline Highway lost power and eventually its backup generator due to the storm the same night. The site was only operating on a backup battery which was its last line of defense before failure, DPS said. 

On Monday, Jan. 23, two DPS generator technicians made repairs to get the generator back online.

“Had the site failed, emergency communications capabilities for first responders would have been limited from Phoenix to Payson along S.R. 87,” DPS said. 

It was fortunate technicians reached the sites.

“Had the two sites failed simultaneously, radio communications would have been seriously limited for a portion of northeastern Arizona,” DPS said.

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