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Audit of York County 911 planned after paging issue

Written by Gordon Rago/The York Daily Record | Aug 23, 2017 7:12 AM
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Chad Deardorff, president of the York County Chiefs' Association and a York City fire deputy chief, addresses a room of state and local officials Wednesday night after issues with the county's 911 paging system. (Photo: Gordon Rago, York Daily Record)

(York) -- York County officials plan to pursue a series of "action steps" following a meeting earlier this month where fire and EMS members aired concerns they have with the 911 paging system.

Part of the plan includes an operations audit of York County 911, President Commissioner Susan Byrnes said in a statement, shared online this week.

Ira Walker Jr., fire chief in Stewartstown, said he received an email from Byrnes last week with the outlined goals. He said on Tuesday that he responded by thanking her for listening during the Aug. 9 meeting and responding with a plan.

"It's nice to see that the county commissioners are all in," Walker said.

Some York County fire chiefs, including Walker, urged county and state officials at the meeting to look into paging problems and to bring in an outside consultant. 

Chad Livelsberger, chief of Wrightsville Fire and Rescue, called for an audit and said the county is not where it should be in 2017 when it comes to paging and radio.

"If I can call my cell phone across the country to China and talk to someone in China, but I can't talk on a two-way radio a mile away, we have some serious issues," he said at the meeting.

The meeting was called after the county's paging system went down on July 29. Shortly after the outage, county spokesman Mark Walters told reporters that the outage stemmed from a firmware issue that prevented dispatchers from connecting to a GPS signal so they could reach fire and EMS.

York County 911 is operating without any issues despite engineering a work-around after a software malfunction preventing the use of their paging system. Ted Czech, York Daily Record/Sunday News

Fire chiefs said they had problems receiving pages to 911 calls, while others said issues went beyond paging.

Essentially, county dispatchers relay details of emergency calls to departments after a 911 call comes in over a digital paging system.

Firefighters and emergency services personnel often rely on paging to be notified of calls, since they cannot always be very close to a 911 scanner, fire officials have said.

That is a "complex filtration system," Walters said this week, adding that the first responders on the receiving end of calls are essential in the process.

To that end, the county plans to set up a community advisory board for 911, according to Byrnes's statement. The board will include first responders. Walker said he volunteered to be on the board.

As far as the audit, county commissioners will have to vote and approve on the agency that conducts it, Walters said Tuesday. A proposal is being reviewed to hire a consultant, he said, but he couldn't yet guarantee if the matter would be on the agenda at the Sept. 6 commissioner's meeting.

One of the main areas of focus will be on technology and looking at what equipment is being used.

Walters said the county had been talking about reviewing York County 911 prior to the Aug. 9 meeting, after Eric Bistline, former director of the Department of Emergency Services, retired around December of last year.

Other action steps include establishing a redundancy system as well as exploring other secondary options.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in News, York

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