Denton City Council members will receive reports Tuesday about the response by several city departments to the winter weather crisis in February.
“Severe inclement weather impacted the city of Denton and resulted in unprecedented demand for services which impacted departments citywide,” city documents state. “An emergency/disaster event of this magnitude required a thorough review of departmental processes, impacts, and results of service delivery. At Mayor [Gerard] Hudspeth’s request, city council was asked to provide any potential questions in advance of department presentations in an effort to provide streamlined discussions.”
The work session reports are from information technology, solid waste, customer service and animal services departments. No action on the items is planned.
In his presentation, Ryan Adams, director of customer service and public affairs, said customer service representatives who have been working remotely because of the pandemic faced intermittent outages during rotating blackouts, preventing them from receiving calls.
Also, call center lines remained closed because the department could not guarantee service, and the lack of reliability could leave callers “stuck in queue.” Meanwhile, the focus was on “management of emergent calls,” and “staff were kept on standby in the event power was restored.”
As the crisis worsened, many residents sustained property damage as their pipes began to thaw and burst. At the same time, city officials encouraged water conservation and issued boil-water notices.
In response, a single phone number was published for emergencies, and staff coverage was staggered to provide better customer service.
Operations were limited beginning Feb. 14 for the landfill and residential and commercial services.
Water leaks were reported at several department buildings, and waste collections were twice the tonnage of a regular week.
Normal operations are expected to resume by March 8.
With the animal shelter on an emergency circuit to prevent long outages to keep animals warm, an emergency response team was deployed for high-priority calls. Seventy-six of those were received, and 13 animals were rescued.
The department also delivered pet food from a pantry to people who could not leave their homes and provided animal supplies at 24-hour warming stations.
Department personnel, working remotely, opened a phone line queue to supplement customer service calls related to water metering. Additionally, 529 public safety calls were received per day. Over the same period a year ago, that number was 346.
“Dispatchers and IT staff came in to fill their shifts … in snow [and] ice, regardless of personnel changes,” according to documents in the council briefing.
What didn’t work, officials said in the report, is the Teasley Lane communications tower. Frank Dixon, Denton police chief and interim assistant city manager, said equipment on the tower failed.
“As far as I know, it was the repeater,” Dixon said. “The generator wasn’t functional out there. We had to switch over to the county.”
Repeaters are used to account for signal loss during coverage gaps when agencies are communicating with each other by radio.
“It failed to auto-switch to generator during a rolling outage, which caused a radio system disruption,” Dixon said. The Denton Police Department “switched to a county channel,” and the Denton Fire Department “used an existing backup channel. Automated dispatch call-alerting and related network switches went down during rolling power outages at fire stations.”
At that point, radio dispatching was used.
“All in all, technology services stayed stable and available,” the report shows.
The City Council work session is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, with the regular meeting following at 6:30 p.m.