Turkey into electrical wires knocks out power to Sonoma County's 911 system

A wild turkey that flew into power lines knocked out Sonoma County's high-tech emergency 911 dispatch system Sunday night and crippled operations at the courthouse and county jail Monday.

The power blackout was compounded when the county's massive and expensive emergency backup power system failed.

On Monday, with computers out, traffic court was greatly curtailed, court calendars and proceedings had to be recorded by hand and jail inmates missed morning court appearances.

"And all because of a turkey," said Jose Guillen, court executive officer.

The 7:59 p.m. Sunday blackout affected almost 2,000 homes and businesses, including the county's computer aided dispatch system used by nearly all public safety departments in the county.

Without it, police and fire dispatchers for an hour Sunday were forced to take calls with paper and pencil.

No significant delays or problems in responding to calls were reported during the blackout, officials said.

The turkey's timing helped: Calls for service from 8 to 9 p.m. on Sundays typically are low. Only about a dozen calls came in to REDCOM, the county's regional fire and medical emergency dispatch center, during Sunday's blackout.

With the blackout, the dispatchers' computers and every computer connected to the county system went black, officials said. At that point, the county's uninterrupted power supply, or UPS, should have kicked in.

"The UPS failed," said Chris Hentz, who supervises tech support for the county's computer dispatch system. "It's just that simple."

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