Fire department duty

Watseka firefighter Steve Yana mans the call box in Watseka in case a 432-exchange emergency call comes in. Firefighters around the county have been manning the call boxes as telephone service has been out since a fiber optic line was cut near Papineau. 

In spite of all the obstacles a cut AT&T fiber optic cable has caused, emergency calls are getting handled.

A cut AT&T  fiber optic line north of Papineau has wreaked havoc in Iroquois County for the past several hours, said 911 Coordinator Nita Dubble.

Dubble said AT&T representatives she has been in contact with have said they hope to have service restored for 911 by 6 p.m. and the rest of the services restored by midnight.

Dubble said 911 dispatchers working last night discovered phones were down at about 12:30 a.m. 

"We have two boxes in here," she said, noting that about that time the message came across that the service was down.

The dispatchers made the switch for calls to be rerouted to Kankakee County's Kan-Com.

Because there was no phone service, she said the dispatchers also could not contact her by phone to let her know what was going on, so a county deputy was dispatched to her house. She went in to the dispatcher center as soon as she found out there was a problem.

Dubble said this is the third time a line has been cut, so they have a procedure in place. 

Eighty percent of the 911 calls going in to the dispatch center are from cell phones, she said. 

But that other 20 percent must, of course, also must be answered. However, they soon learned that many of the land line exchanges were not going through to Kan-Com for some reason. 

Watseka, Sheldon, Iroquois, Crescent, Ashkum, Milford, Stockland, Wellington and Cissna Park fire departments have stepped up to help out.

Those areas have exchanges that are not going through to Kan-Com. Because of that, Dubble said, the fire departments have set up with two phones that are hooked in to the telephone service. When the 911 calls come in, the fire department personnel are actually the ones taking the calls and relaying them on to the appropriate authorities. 

"They've been doing that since about 2 a.m.," Dubble said.

Most of those exchanges are working in that regard for the 911 calls. However, Dubble said, for some reason the Sheldon/Iroquois, anyone in the 429 exchange, call boxes are not working. Those residents must call 429-3400 to get emergency service. Don't use 815 in front of the number, she said.

AT&T representatives, she said, have told her the line was cut around Papineau on Route 1, which is where they are now working. The technology that was cut was fiber optic, she said, but was 1988 technology. They are having to replace it with the newest technology, which will include 20,000 feet of new fiber optic. Dubble said she was told they had to get enough fiber optic to do the job. 

Dubble said she really appreciates the work of the fire departments, who are manning the call boxes and Kan-Comm, who are taking the cell phone emergency calls. 

Contacts to AT&T have not yet been returned as of presstime.