KEWS network prepped for winter
The state’s public safety emergency communications network has undergone a series of improvements and upgrades just in time for winter, an official said.
Jeff Mitchell, the manager for the Kentucky Emergency Warning System, said the deadly winter ice storm that paralyzed Kentucky in January weakened more than two dozen of the network’s broadcast towers in the western part of the state, but officials have worked hard through the year to make repairs. Towers have been structurally reinforced and new equipment was installed before the start of winter.
"One of the major initiatives of the KEWS-2 upgrade project concentrates on reducing the impact of power outages, high winds, ice, and other damage typically associated with dangerous winter storms," Mitchell said. "This includes the installation of new shelters, the deployment of back up battery systems, and the installation of automatic generator systems which will provide backup power without human intervention, reducing the risk to staff."
The KEWS network serves a vital role in state and local government, carrying data, video, and voice traffic for a large number of agencies including Kentucky Educational Television, state police, military affairs, emergency management, and hundreds of local police, fire, and emergency medical service agencies.
A branch of Commonwealth Office of Technology, KEWS was established after a deadly round of tornados struck the state in 1974. The network consists of 140 broadcast towers strategically placed around the state, including many in desolate, remote areas.
The January ice storm knocked out electric service to more than 60 towers simultaneously, forcing officials to scramble to get generators to some of the most remote areas in the state.
"Since the ice storm, among other improvements, we have deployed an additional 44 generators,” Mitchell said. “That's 44 sites that will automatically switch over and continue to service public safety agencies without the need to deploy personnel to restore power to sites which have lost commercial services."