CO Leak Sickens Neb. Dispatchers

OMAHA, Neb. --

A carbon monoxide leak left Sarpy County 911 without a dispatch center for two hours on Thursday night.

A couple dispatchers and a visitor at the center got sick from the fumes, authorities said. Emergency calls had to be rerouted to Douglas County, delaying responders.

Papillion firefighters evacuated the dispatch center about 10 p.m. They found a leak in a water heater in the furnace room nearby.

All 911 calls from Sarpy County transfer to Douglas County operators, sheriff's deputies from both counties, La Vista, Papillion and Bellevue police using the same channels as Omaha police.

"If plans had not worked, we'd be very concerned about citizens calling 911 and not having anyone answer," said Emergency Management Director Larry LaVelle.

But some Bellevue officers didn’t hear the calls. Half of the portable radios don't carry the Douglas County channels.

"You can't talk to anybody on the radio -- a very scary feeling," said Officer Chris Abbott.

A Bellevue police supervisor listened to the calls and tracked down the appropriate officers, authorities said.

Police said they were fortunate -- it was a relatively non-eventful night.

"There was some delay in some of the calls," said Bellevue Police Capt. Herb Evers. "Nothing got missed and there were no big disasters or big disturbance calls for that time."

Police and those at the Sarpy County 911 center sad the evacuation exposed some weaknesses in their system. They said they hope to have them fixed in the event that a disaster shuts down the center.

Sarpy County is slated to get a $500,000 Homeland Security grant to upgrade the county's outdated police radios.

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