Harris System Withstands an EF3 Tornado in Marshalltown, IA
On July 19, 2018, dozens of tornadoes erupted over central Iowa packing winds over 140 MPH. Several hit Polk County—the worst, in the city of Bondurant.
“The damage was just everywhere,” said Major Brent Long, Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “…Phone lines were down, cell phones were overwhelmed.”
More than 50 structures were damaged or destroyed in Polk County. And that was just the start of it.
Hours later, an EF-3 tornado slammed into Marshalltown, Iowa. Harris’ Public Safety and Professional Communications Regional Center for Excellence – RACOM suffered a direct hit. The RACOM building houses the network core elements to support more than 300 public agencies in the surrounding communities.
“If we lose (cut) the ability to talk to each other at any point during a critical event like this, it has a direct, negative impact on lives,” said Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper.
Walls were blown out, windows were shattered and employees ran for cover… and through it all, the Harris P25 and EDACS communications system network never blinked, according to RACOM CEO Mike Miller.
Miller explained it as like a bomb hit the building.
“I ran upstairs to our Network Operations Center, and Ryan, our senior network engineer was there, and he said, ‘Mike, I think it’s all working.’ And I was like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’”
“Technology’s not supposed to live through something like this,” Miller continued.
“Rain and debris and insulation and sheet rock all being blown into those servers … but it stayed up and it stayed running,” Miller said.
When Tupper saw the devastation to the RACOM building, he too was shocked that his team still had radios.
“But that’s how good this equipment is,” he said. “That’s how good the RACOM system is.”
Miller says that’s what the system is built for.
"RACOM headquarters was tested to the extreme and our network stood strong,” he said. “This is why we design the way we do, and why we chose the (Harris) equipment we have."
Later in the day, the 911 communications center for Marshall County experienced a gas leak and had to move to a safe location. They chose RACOM as a trusted space to ensure the 911 system continued to work via the Harris/RACOM systems.
“The radios, Mike Miller and his team at RACOM, rock stars. Phenomenal,” Tupper said. “And because the system stayed up that day and the Harris radios kept working, no doubt in my mind lives were saved that day.”