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Utilities respond to blast

By Bob Vandewater

April 20, 1995

Despite damage to their downtown buildings, the state's largest utility companies responded to Wednesday's bombing at a federal building by rerouting services and 1 offering what help they could.

At Southwestern Bell Telephone, which has operations in five major downtown office buildings, "we evacuated 918 employees," most of whom were sent home, spokesman Thom Hunter said.

Big computerized switches in buildings near the explosion site that route and handle phone calls in and out of downtown were put on "remote" operation. Because of heavy telephone calling traffic Wednesday morning, the company did some "selected call blocking" to keep its system from being overloaded to a crisis point, Hunter said.

No 911 emergency calls were blocked, he said.

Today, only "essential personnel" are expected to report to work at those Bell offices, Hunter said. Such workers "will be notified by their supervisors if they're to come to work. Otherwise they're not to come to work. We may reassign some nonessential employees to essential jobs, and if so they'll be notified," he said.

Hunter noted that in Bell's Oklahoma division headquarters at 800 N Harvey, two blocks from the blast site, "the big oak doors on the side of building were blown in half. " Inside, numerous windows were blown in, and in at least one case the entire wooden frames were blown in as well, he said.

Downed ceiling tiles littered floors of numerous downtown buildings.

Bell's parking lot at 800 N Harvey has become a central command location for federal investigators and the National Guard, Hunter said.

Leslee Boyd, with Cellular One, said that company provided 225 cellular phones and cellular service free to emergency services personnel to ease their communications problems. Bell also set up emergency land-line phone banks in a couple of locations for use by emergency personnel and others.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric spokesman Grant Ringel said that like other companies throughout the downtown area, that utility sent all of its workers home before noon.

OG&E crews were cooperating with investigators and emergency workers to provide electric service where required, while service in some places was disconnected for safety reasons, Ringel said.


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