Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Fiber-optic cut disrupts business

Computers snarled in Kenton Co.

By Jim Hannah and Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PARK HILLS — You couldn't even get a buck out of a money machine.

        Transfer a car registration? Forget it.

        And you didn't have to worry about getting thrown into the slammer on an out standing warrant.

        A fiber-optic line in Park Hills was cut Tuesday morning, leaving parts of Florence, Lakeside Park, Covington and Independence without high-speed data or Internet connection.

[photo] Jean Jones holds a stack of Kenton County auto license renewals that had to be taken by hand Tuesday while computers were down.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        The line break — which happened at about 8 a.m. near Dixie Highway and Arlington Road — affected bigger pipe connections, said Tressie Long, spokeswoman for Cincinnati Bell. All service was restored by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

        About 200 to 300 customers experienced dial-tone problems, but most problems were experienced by businesses using telephone company data lines.

        A Fifth Third Bank spokeswoman said computer servers were down at some of its 28 Northern Kentucky locations until early afternoon.

        At the Fifth Third Bank branch on Mall Road in Florence, deposits were about the only transaction customers could make, teller Susan McClure said. Computers at that branch were down for nearly four hours after opening.

        “Our customers couldn't withdraw funds, our ATMs didn't work, and we couldn't cash checks or give balances,” Ms. McClure said. “But most of our customers were patient while we called other branches to verify a balance.”

        Kenton County residents who had waited until one of the last days of the shortest month of the year to renew their vehicle licenses were greeted with a line. Clerks abandoned their computer terminals in favor of pens and paper when state computers went down for about three hours in the morning.

        “We were getting double-dipped — people for February, a short month, and people for March,” said Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor.

        People transfering vehicle registrations were turned away, Mr. Aylor said.

        Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties' police dispatching systems lost their connection to state terminals in Frankfort, which allows officers throughout Northern Kentucky to check license plates and vehicle identifications, and check for outstanding warrants throughout the United States.

        Patients at some Northern Kentucky doctors' offices served by Alliance Primary Care also could not schedule appointments for about 4 1/2 hours Tuesday, said Amy Bomar, spokeswoman for the Health Alliance.

        The computer outage from 8:15 a.m. until 12:47 p.m. also forced staff at St. Luke Hospital West to register patients manually, Ms. Bomar said.

        A spokeswoman for St. Elizabeth Medical Center said the outage primarily affected communications between the North and South units in Covington and Edgewood between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

        Because the hospital's main patient information system was on a separate line, functions such as patient registration were unaffected, said Tony Farley, director of information systems for St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

        However, the break did require the hospital's payroll staff at the North unit to temporarily move to the South unit Tuesday to process payroll. Also affected was the hospital system's network that allows communication between hospitals and various offices within the hospital. Printouts of lab results and certain medical tests also were not available during the day, but that information could still be viewed on a computer screen, and was available by phone.

        “We have plans in place to deal with situations like this, but still it's a major inconvenience,” Mr. Farley said.

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