11/11/2007

911 operators face their own emergency in Miami

911 calls were rerouted to the Miami-Dade communications center and then relayed back to the department's mobile command center while the floor was evacuated.

By DAVID SMILEY
The Miami Herald

MIAMI, Fla. — Emergency dispatchers at the Miami Police and Fire Headquarters were evacuated Sunday morning and 911 calls had to be rerouted for an hour after something tripped the emergency call center's fire alarm system.

According to fire rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll, operators on the fourth floor of the building, 400 NW Second Ave., say they heard a buzzing sound followed by a boom and then halon, a powdery fire retardant, began to spray throughout the floor.

The 24 dispatchers working on the floor were evacuated and five were transported to local hospitals for evaluation after complaining of shortness of breath, Carroll said.

Halon isn't life threatening, Carroll said, but lowers oxygen levels and can be irritable if breathed in.

Emergency 911 calls were rerouted to the Miami-Dade communications center and then relayed back to the department's mobile command center while the floor was evacuated.

About eight calls came in during that time and no dispatches were delayed, Carroll said. ``It's Sunday, so it's a quiet day today.''

The center is up and running again, but Miami's Coconut Grove communications station is operating as a backup, Carroll said.

Carroll said there was no evidence of a fire, but investigators are still examining the halon system. As for what caused the emergency system to activate -- ''That's still a mystery,'' Carroll said.

© 2007 Miami Herald

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