False alarm caused Newark's emergency headquarters to shut down for two hours

(11/21/04) NEWARK - Emergency headquarters in Newark suffered its own emergency on Sunday, causing 9-1-1 calls to be re-routed to Jersey City.

The work at Newark's state-of-the-art police and fire communications center and home of the city's 9-1-1 system came to a halt because of a false alarm. Something triggered a fire alarm that poured out a white, nontoxic fire suppressant powder that covered 9-1-1 operators and their equipment. Eleven of the 21 employees on duty were rushed to nearby hospitals for exposure or inhalation of the powder.

Newark Police Director Anthony Ambrose says authorities are unsure whether the alarm was set off deliberately or if it was a malfunction. They are continuing their investigation.

Newark's 9-1-1 grid was down for more than two hours in the afternoon, and only non-emergency calls were disrupted. In all, Jersey City took 75 calls for Newark's police and fire departments. Ambrose says the backup system worked perfectly, but he stresses that Newark's primary system is currently back to normal and up and running again.

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