WAHOO – A lightning strike to the Saunders County Courthouse late Monday night took the 911 system down for more than 13 hours, the longest stretch of time the emergency call system has ever been out of service.
Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz said the incident took place about 11:09 p.m. Monday night when lightning struck the Saunders County Courthouse and 911 center. The system was restored at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s the longest we’ve ever been down,” he said.
Personnel on duty reported seeing sparks fly out of outlets in the two locations and heard the boom from what is assumed to be a direct lightning strike, Stukenholtz said.
“Both buildings experienced the same thing,” he added.
The lightning strike damaged computers, servers and other electronic equipment, shutting down the county’s 911 system. A built-in backup system forwarded calls to Butler County, Stukenholtz said, and a generator kept power running in the affected buildings.
“Our backup system seemed to work very well,” he said.
The department’s radio system remained up and running throughout the outage, even though the state’s was down, Stukenholtz said.
“We still had communication with our first responders and our officers,” he added.
The public was able to call the sheriff’s department to report emergencies through the office number, 402-443-1000.
Surge protectors installed to prevent damage did not seem to work, according to the sheriff.
“It was such a significant hit that somehow the surge protection didn’t withstand that kind of hit,” said Stukenholtz.