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Lighting Strikes NJ Comm Center, five dispatchers shocked

Date: 2015-06-25
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The Salem County Dept. of Emergency Services dispatch facility, located in Mannington Township, New Jersey, was struck by three successive lightning strikes Thursday, according to a report at NJ.com.  Five dispatchers suffered from electrical shocks as a result.

The dispatchers were handling an influx of 9-1-1 calls, many relating to a large storm that was moving through the area.  Two of the dispatchers states that they both received a shock by one the first lightning strike, another during the second strike, and the other two were shocked by the third lightning strike.

Salem County Undersheriff John Cuzzupe, who oversees the county’s 9-1-1 communications center (pictured above right), told NJ.com that each of the dispatchers reported experiencing headaches, confusion, tingling, and other reactions.  The dispatchers were taken to the Memorial Hospital of Salem County for an evaluation, after which they were released to go home.  A follow-up checkup at the hospital was scheduled for today before the five were cleared for duty.

Cuzzupe said that all five dispatchers, continued answering incoming phone calls.  “That's a great credit to their service," Cuzzupe told the newspaper. "They wanted to continue to work."

Additional staff were called in to relieve the dispatchers shocked and handle the amount of calls that flooded the center due to the storm.  In all, the 9-1-1 system took nearly 250 calls in less than three hours.

The dispatch center equipment being used by the dispatchers was part of a newly-upgraded system that had been recently installed at the Communications Center.  Cuzzupe reported that an investigation will be launched to determine how the dispatchers were shocked.

The array of tall, steel antennas around communications centers makes lightning strikes a not-uncommon occurrence, but it’s rare that the shocks pass safety systems and shock the personnel (a dispatch center in Beatrice, Nebraska, for example, was struck by lightning strike last May and disabled for more than a month, but one was hurt).

For more information, read the news report at NJ.com

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (based on a report at NJ.com, 6/25/15)
Photo of Salem County Dept. of Emergency Services building via Salem County web site

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