Fire and flood knock out 911

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The Independent Online
LOS ANGELES'S emergency services suffered their own emergency over the weekend after the city's 911 telephone exchange - the equivalent of 999 - was inadvertently drenched in 2,000 gallons of water.

Buried deep in the bowels of City Hall, workers operating the telephones fell victim to a small fire that broke out a few floors above them.

The fire - caused by some old fireworks being stored by police investigators - was put out immediately, but the over-zealous sprinkler system regrettably turned the 911 room into something from a scene in Titanic.

"There were cables floating in six inches of water. That's the kiss of death. People aren't even allowed to drink coffee at their desks because they could spill it," said Monika Giles, a supervisor. "We're lucky that it came back on at all."

The public barely noticed the calamity, because a back-up system automatically re-routed calls to local police stations and the highway patrol.

But the regular 911 service was knocked out for 17 hours. After much frantic mopping, the delicate circuits picking up emergency calls were eventually cleaned off with a number of hair-driers.

LA's 911 service has been plagued with less spectacular problems for some time.

The underground bunker had already been deemed unsuitable and is set to close as soon as a new room, above ground, can be completed.

The service is also notoriously slow, partly because of the city's size and partly because of a huge volume of calls from people whose cats or dogs are missing, or who cannot work out how to turn on their ovens.

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