• Charlene Sims, Journal staff

Two direct hits by lightning causes equipment problems

Updated: Jul 22

MOUND CITY – Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin updated the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, May 16, about lightning strikes to the county towers and about the progress at the Justice Center.

Martin reported that the county took two lightning strikes in six days. The first one, which occurred in late April, was to the tower near Kansas Highway 7 south of Mound City, the county’s main tower. All of the tower radios for the data were lost, not the radios like the sheriff uses, but how the data communicates.

Martin said he had those back on line at this point, but because of supply-chain related issues the county does not have as much redundancy as it usually would until the rest of that equipment comes in. But we are online and working well.

The following Monday the county took a direct lightning hit to the tower at the sheriff’s office that caused quite a bit of havoc, Martin said. Seven network switches went out which was a big issue for the county. Two 911 consoles were hit, but since the county is under a contract with Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the system was running again very quickly.

Even though the county does not have the new equipment, MARC brought replacement machines from its old stock and got the county back online immediately.

Martin said that MARC was not required to do that, but they did and he was very happy with their service.

One radio console was lost but since dispatch has two consoles, the damaged one is being replaced by a backup laptop. So the county’s operation was not diminished in any way. The county is waiting for delivery of the second console machine, said Martin.

The county also lost five radio interfaces and the computer “brain” inside of the generator, he said. The generator is right beneath the tower. Also lost were five desk phones, five computers which were covered under warranty, and three wireless links to our towers. Again, those are all back online.

County Clerk David Lamb said that it had also damaged the postage machine. Martin said there were still some damages in the offices that he did not know about.

Commissioner Rick James asked if there was something that could have been done to prevent this from happening.

Martin said he had made several calls to check that out, and there was nothing that could prevent damage from a direct strike. The lightning hit the tower and with that much voltage coming through, there is an electromagnetic pulse that comes off of that. There’s just nothing the county could have done.

For the past week, Martin said that his office has been rebuilding the phone system and it is back on line.

Martin told the commissioners that the county has a new intrusion detection system as part of the new router, so there is added security. Martin said that, as a government entity, our routers are just constantly being scanned for holes and vulnerabilities.

Martin gave credit to IT support Nick Graham and said he was fantastic. He said that without him, the county would not be where they are right now trying to get all of the equipment back online.

Martin told the commissioners that at the Justice Center all of the televisions and access points are up and running and installed. He thanked county maintenance team Rick Castle and Zach Daniels, who have been invaluable to the IT installation.

Martin said that more than 50 cameras have been installed even though they

have still not received their original order from last July. And while the supply chain is still causing problems, enough have been installed to open the building, all of the perimeter is covered, all the jail and most of the public hallways.

Martin thanked the county fair board because they had five cameras that had not yet been installed and they loaned those to Martin for the Justice Center. Martin said when the county’s cameras come in, they will replace the fair board’s.

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