For about a half-hour late Friday afternoon, calls placed to the Fair Lawn Police Department's non-emergency phone number were met with a busy signal.
The department's non-emergency phone lines went down some time after 5 p.m. Friday, leaving police dispatchers and officers unreachable by any of the department's half-dozen non-emergency numbers until the problem was identified and incoming calls were forwarded to a functional line, police said. The department's 9-1-1 emergency line remained operational throughout.
The problem was first identified by a dispatcher attempting to make an outgoing call, Sgt. James Krizek said. Officers contacted the company that services the department's phones once it was established that none of the department's non-emergency lines were functional, and within 30 minutes incoming calls were being transferred to a working line in the municipal building's basement level emergency operations center.
Krizek, the acting shift commander, manned the downstairs EOC line until an extra dispatcher who had been called in to work the alternate phone line arrived. While downstairs, he said he communicated with dispatchers upstairs using a portable radio.
Thankfully, Krizek said, it was a slow night. He estimated the department received fewer than 10 calls -- most involving overnight parking --following the phone line rerouting. Overnight parking restrictions were lifted as a result of the communication breakdown with residents.
Krizek said that by about 8:30 p.m., a tech from the phone servicing company had the department's non-emergency phone lines up and running again. He was not sure what caused the failure, but said it was the first time in his 12 years with the department that the phone lines have gone down.
At the moment, there is no contingency plan in place if the lines were to go down again, he said.