On Saturday, June 19, the paging system for fire departments and Lapeer County EMS partially went down in the area of the Lapeer tower. The Imlay City and North Branch tower areas were unaffected. It was a combination problem of a faulty power supply and a circuit board called a nucleolus, which is the “brain” of the paging system. Each site has its own nucleolus, which allows them to continue to operate though one site is down. Fortunately we had several spare power supplies and one spare nucleolus.
We felt due to the concentration of population surrounding the Lapeer tower as opposed to the North Branch tower that we were going to pull the nucleolus from North Branch and put it in service in Lapeer to get paging back online in the area. Blumerich Communications (our radio shop) went to North Branch and pulled the parts and brought them to Lapeer. The boards proved to be a bit different from each site and when inserted wouldn’t work right. By all indications, it was only the nucleolus that was bad as both power supplies were working and showing faults, and the two cards (the nucleolus and another card) were not coming up. Working with several cards and different technical methods took quite some time. We found that the first spare power supply we pulled out of storage turned out to be a bad unit and didn’t work. We were able to insert the original nucleolus into the Lapeer site with a second spare power supply and that brought it back online.
During this time, it was discovered that the nucleolus from the North Branch site was going bad as it would only power up and then go into a reset loop. By this time it was 2am. Earlier in the evening dispatch made phone calls to all the departments advising them of the situation. Sunday morning we returned after getting some rest and took the spare nucleolus back to North Branch. The spare nucleolus needed programming for our system and Blumerich had copied the proper settings from the working board in Lapeer before going to North Branch. Once the spare was programmed and inserted into the system we did a test page with Burlington Fire and people in Tuscola County and Marlette as well as in Lapeer received the page. After the successful page with Burlington it was confirmed that all sites were back online. We directed an ‘all call’ page for the entire county around 1200 on Sunday to alert the fire service that the system was back online at 100% for all three sites.
Additionally, all the Lapeer County EMS bases were on radio standby initially and then only the North Branch EMS base was required to be on radio standby, once the problem was diagnosed. Now all the bases are back on routine paging for calls.
The nucleolus board is an obsolete part and went off the Motorola contract several years ago. Had we not had a spare on hand, it is unlikely that we would be able to get another one or get one repaired. We are going to try and find another one, as well as try and repair the bad one. The nucleolus is a critical part of the paging system.
Coincidentally, earlier in the day Saturday we had a high temperature alarm in the Imlay City tower site. The A/C had gone out and the threshold of heat inside the radio room was exceeded. We contacted the County Buildings and Grounds department and they went out and fixed the problem. Though it was a high temperature, the systems were unaffected. This problem was completely separate and unrelated to the paging problem.