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Leaky roof at Salt Lake headquarters knocks out computers and 911

Middle-of-the-night woes are cleared up in 2 hours — mostly

Salt Lake City's crumbling police headquarters is continuing to give officers, and now dispatchers, headaches.

For about two hours early Wednesday, all of the department's computers and radios went out, including all 911 services. The culprit: rain and a leaky roof.

About 1:30 a.m., the power source to the electronic equipment at the police department, on the corner of 200 South and 300 East, went out "because water leaked through the ceiling and fried the mother board," said Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Bedard. The power source is in a building next to the police station's parking structure, which already is partially closed because of deterioration.

Salt Lake City police say they're fortunate there is another 911 dispatch center in Salt Lake County. All 911 calls were transferred to the Valley Emergency Communications Center. As dispatchers there would receive a call, they would call Salt Lake City dispatchers on their cell phones. Those dispatchers had to write down the information by hand on pieces of paper, Bedard said. The Salt Lake dispatchers would then call officers in the field on a hand-held, battery-operated radio.

Although an exact number wasn't available, Bedard said several 911 calls were received during the difficulties. All calls were answered with relatively minimal delay, he said.

"We took care of business," Bedard said.

Salt Lake's 911 center was fixed and running again after two hours. But Bedard said unless there are some permanent changes in the near future, the problem will get worse.

"This is not something that is going away. This building is not going to suddenly improve itself or the cost to maintain it go away," he said. "We've been able to put out small fires so far. We don't want to be in the station when we have a big fire we can't put out."

The 911 system was working Wednesday afternoon, but not all of the computers were back up to speed. Officers were still unable to file police reports, Bedard said.

In a couple of weeks, Salt Lake residents will vote on a $192 million bond for new public safety facilities. The money would go toward building a 126,000-square-foot public safety building and an adjacent 25,000-square-foot emergency operations center.

It's something the department desperately needs, Bedard said. "We're on borrowed time right now."