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Mangano: Storm-related calls swamp Nassau's 911 system

Gary Marsicovetere talks about the tree that toppled

Gary Marsicovetere talks about the tree that toppled on his Wantagh home Saturday night. (March 14, 2010) Photo Credit: J. Conrad Williams

A review of Nassau's 911 system is needed, County Executive Edward Mangano said Sunday after callers overwhelmed it during Saturday's storm, causing answering delays and the routing of some calls to Albany.

Mangano said the 911 system handles an average of 2,200 calls daily. Saturday that soared to about 10,000, he said, many of them generated by the ferocious nor'easter. In a typical week, 14,000 to 17,000 calls are handled.

Mangano said he knew of no cases Saturday in which 911 callers in jeopardy were unable to get somebody on the line, but there were waits and the system was swamped, despite the best efforts of call takers.

When Nassau's system is at capacity, Mangano said calls spill over, first to Suffolk County and then to a New York State Police system in Albany. "The public is protected because you have the redundancy," Mangano said. "But we should be able to do more locally."

Suffolk officials said they aided Nassau with 911 calls and reported no similar problems with their emergency system. Mangano said some calls were likely duplicates, with different people alerting authorities about the same downed tree, for instance, that they already knew about. Still, Mangano said he wants more capacity in Nassau's 911 system.

Monday, he said, he'll meet with those who manage the system.

Mangano said he also plans to examine the failure of an 800-megahertz radio system used by town and village emergency management personnel, the Sheriff's Department and the county's Department of Public Works.

Lightning struck the system's antennas in Oyster Bay and Roslyn Sunday, knocking out service about 12:45 p.m., he said. The system was back up by 3 p.m., Mangano said.

The storm did not affect cell phone or land line service, Mangano said, so officials were able to communicate.

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