Leak causes emergency calls to be re-routed in Wapello County

The leak seen here caused the Wapello County Sheriff's Office and the Ottumwa Police Department to lose 9-1-1 capabilities.

The Ottumwa Police Department and the Wapello County Sheriff's Office are currently unable to take 9-1-1 calls from Ottumwa or Wapello County, due to a leak from an air conditioning unit.

The unit was in the ceiling of the law center, and when it froze, it leaked fluid onto a console that contains the department's phone equipment. Once the incident was discovered on Sunday night, it was also discovered that the leak affected the building's ability to take emergency calls. Calls coming in to the police or sheriff's department were immediately routed to Mahaska County.

Currently, anyone who makes a 9-1-1 call from Ottumwa or from the county using a cell phone will have their call answered in Mahaska County. Calls made from the county will be re-routed to Davis County. The dispatchers there will take the information and relay it to dispatchers here in Ottumwa.

This is not the first time something like this has happened, but the good news is - the department is prepared when it does.

"Our folks in dispatch, our communications folks, are really well-trained, they practice stuff all the time, they're very familiar with our systems, so once they get that information, they're able to turn it around very quickly," said Josh Stevens, Coordinator for Wapello County Emergency Management. "So while its an inconvenience, obviously, [it's] not a comfort zone because it's not every day operations, they're completely able to handle it, it's just Plan B. And we'll get back to Plan A as soon as we can, but in the meantime, they're really able to adapt to it and they've all been trained really well."

This contingency plan has been in place for some time, and if Mahaska County's services were to go down, another plan is put in place.

"They come up with a contingency plan so that as soon as we know we don't have the capability to answer 9-1-1 calls, we notify Mahaska County first and they would start answering our calls," said Lt. Tom McAndrew of the Ottumwa Police Department. "We also have a plan if Mahaska County would go down, we'd then go to another county, Jefferson, most likely, and then to Davis County and so on."

All of the non-emergency lines for the police department and sheriff's office are still working, and officials said they hope to have 9-1-1 capabilities back again by the end of the week, depending on how quickly they are able to get the equipment replaced.