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Police, paramedics lose cell-phone use for 2 hours

Police, paramedics and fire crews lost a valuable means of communication for more than two hours Wednesday - cellular phones.

The AT&T-operated phones quit working about 5:30 p.m. Nearly all police units, fire engines and ambulances use the phones to communicate during emergencies."Paramedics use the phones to let hospitals know when they're bringing in a patient," said Salt Lake Fire Capt. Mike Tucker. "The phones also are used to keep the hospital workers informed and to put them on the scene."

Emergency crews used old-fashioned radio systems to communicate with hospitals until the cellular phones were restored, Tucker said.

The cellular blackout was caused by a short circuit in Seattle, which cut service to the entire nine-state Western Region, said AT&T spokeswoman Barb Shelley. In Utah, the blackout lasted two hours and 25 minutes.