Glitch Temporarily Knocks Out City Radio Communications

The problem caused firefighters and police officers to lose communication for about five minutes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A rare technical glitch that officials say hasn’t happened in two decades hit San Diego Wednesday, causing the police and fire departments to lose communication. NBC 7's Steven Luke reports. (Published Thursday, May 8, 2014)

     A rare technical glitch that officials say hasn’t happened in two decades hit San Diego Wednesday, causing the police and fire departments to lose communication.

    The mayor’s office admitted the radio communications system went down for about five minutes around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday as their current analog system was being shifted to a new digital one.

    A spokesperson said ordinarily an outage would not have had such a widespread effect, but the backup system was also offline because it needed a replacement control board.

    According to San Diego Police spokesman Kevin Mayer, technicians were on the scene to address the problem quickly.

    “All phone and computer systems continued to work during this time and there was no interruption in service to the public,” Mayer said in an emailed statement.

    Communications workers can reportedly switch between different talk groups to communicate through their radios during problems like this one.

    The city also overnighted a new control board to get the backup system working again.

    Another issue -- according to some members of the police department -- was they did not even notice, raising concerns about response times and safety if a significant emergency had occurred.

    During the glitch, the NBC 7 police scanner showed the normal frequency entering “failsoft” mode.

    Jeff Jordon, vice president of the Police Officers Association, explained in a tweet that “failsoft means total system failure, incredibly dangerous to my fellow officers.”

    President of the San Diego Association of Public Safety Dispatchers Jeffrey Hebert had a different definition, saying failsoft is a fallback mode reducing maximum communication, but it still allows minimized communication if everyone is aware of the situation.

    The mayor’s office said officials are working to identify the root of the problem and prevent it from happening again.