Emergency workers gather at City Command Center | NevadaAppeal.com

Emergency workers gather at City Command Center

Rex Bovee

About two dozen city staffers and volunteers gathered Friday night at Fire Station One for a 12-hour vigil covering the transition to a new millennium.

As the night progressed at Carson City’s designated Emergency Operations Center with no report of major trouble, periodic checks of the back-up radio systems mixed with CNN News, a rented video and even some knitting.

“Since nothing’s going on yet, I pulled out a video and we’re watching ‘Arlington Road,’ ” Battalion Chief Dan Shirey said about 10:30 p.m.

As calm as the scene was, it represented months of preparation in case a computer glitch, man-caused havoc or any other event precipitated panic or disaster in the area.

“We’re much more prepared for communications in case of an emergency than in ’97,” said Scott Hicks, the radio technician for all the city’s radio systems.

Three years ago, warm rains at the end of December melted much of the Sierra snowpack, causing flooding around New Years Day throughout Carson City. As city road and maintenance crews, area law agencies, fire departments and volunteer organizations went to work then, incompatibilities or weak areas of coverage among the various radio systems were pinpointed.

Improvements since then, including a radio repeater installed this month, have made interagency communication more reliable, Hicks said.

But Emergency Operations Center manager Lou Buckley, Carson’s fire chief, and his staff arranged for multiple back-up plans in case an errant computer bug or sudden power failure should bring some of the radio systems down.

The city’s regular dispatch center operating at the sheriff’s office was backed by its emergency generator. A half-dozen communications specialists were on stand-by at Fire Station One, which has its own back-up generator, in case the dispatch center went off-line. Since the lights stayed on, sheriff’s technician Christine Paige worked on turning a ball of yarn into a sweater.

And local ham radio operators set up equipment at key locations throughout Carson City to provide radio contact in case everything else somehow failed.

Among those pulling 12-hour shifts in case they needed to coordinate emergency responses were John Flansburg for the street department, Dave Heath of the city finance section, City Manager John Berkich and District Attorney Noel Waters.

People were available to track expenditures and labor costs if an emergency did development. Many others, from judges and justices of the peace to city maintenance workers, were told they would be on call overnight.

Undersheriff Bill Callahan said all the community’s deputies were on 12-hour shifts, either Friday night or New Years Day, because of concerns about the millennium holiday.

“Any other New Year’s, they just work the regular eight-hour shifts,” Callahan said.