City of Houston P25 network maintains operation despite losing one site to post-Harvey flooding, official says
Houston continues its recovery efforts amid severe floods in the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, but the city’s P25 network “stayed up and hummed through the whole thing,” despite losing one site to flooding and facing oil-replenishment challenges for backup generators, according to the city’s Deputy CIO Tom Sorley.
“We’re in full-blown recovery mode now,” Sorley said today during a brief presentation to the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPTSTC). “We still have a couple of areas of the city that are under water and will be under water for probably at least another week, due to having to bring the water levels down in our two major reservoirs.
“We feel very fortunate that more people weren’t killed or injured, but it was pretty crazy around here. Anyway, we survived.”
Although the flood impacts continue to be felt, Sorley said the city’s P25 system has emerged from Harvey largely intact.
“We only lost one site really, completely—it flooded out with over-the-roof-kind of flooding, so everything’s gone in that one,” Sorley said. “We just lost main electrical service in another one … so that’s not a big deal.
“The system stayed up and hummed through the whole thing.”
One strategy that the city of Houston employed was to activate backup generators before Hurricane Harvey hit the area, “so that—if we had power fluctuations—we wouldn’t get generator overcranks,” Sorley said. While this approach proved to be effective, the city did encounter an unexpected issue associated with the backup generators.
“One of the things that I learned from this that I wasn’t expecting was that our generators, on average, used about a quart of oil per day—which is not good, when they only hold five quarts of oil,” Sorley said. “We’re going to get with the manufacturer and figure out if that’s normal and why did it burn so much, because—by about the fourth day—we were in high-water vehicles going to sites to add oil to the generators.
“We had plenty of fuel, because we use dual-fuel propane and natural gas at most of our sites, so we didn’t really have any issues with running out of fuel or anything like that. But oil became the issue, which is like, ‘Who would have thunk that?’ We learn something new every time when we do these things.”
Sorley said he is “humbled” by the outpouring of well wishes that he has received from the public-safety community, noting that he and all of his employees are safe and avoided injury.