When it comes to an emergency, every second counts. That’s why some members of the Raleigh County Fire Association said they are concerned about the way some dispatch calls are handled. According to them, it can take several minutes for dispatchers to alert first responders from the time the initial emergency call was made.
Firefighters said one of the reasons why this is a problem is because of ‘lack of experience’ of some dispatchers and a policy that does not allow firefighters or first responders to work at the dispatch center. But officials at the 911 center argue the policy is in place because of a ‘conflict of interest.’
Chris Hatcher, a volunteer firefighter with the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department, said most of the members are volunteers and they want to explain their concerns to the public.
“We have the 5-10 minute time delay depending on what’s going on and then we live at our houses, so the time we drive from our houses to the fire department that’s an additional time delay just getting the fire truck out the doors. We’re looking at worst case scenario 15-20 minutes before we can even get wheels on the ground going to your house fire, car wreck, whatever the situation may be,” Hatcher said.
Jeff Johnson is the Deputy Fire Chief at Bradley-Prosperity Volunteer Fire Department. Johnson said he has personal experiences with the response time of dispatch. Back in December, Johnson’s home caught on fire. He claims it took more than five minutes from the time dispatchers received the call to the time first responders were notified.
“We notified the 911 center by several different ways. I know the business owner across the street from my house had called, my neighbor called at the same time I was calling on my fire department radio. That’s how the notification was made,” Johnson said.
59 News reached out to the Raleigh County 911 Center. Communications Chief James Huggins said this is the first time the center is hearing about any complaints about the response time of dispatch.
Bobby Palmer, Interim Chief of the Bradley Prosperity Fire Department, argued that is not true. He said the dispatch center is aware of the delayed response times, which is why an advanced alerting system was created to help alleviate the problem. According to Palmer, as soon as dispatchers receive a 911 call that is considered a ‘priority,’ dispatchers are supposed to immediately activate the advanced alert to let all fire departments in the county know to be on standby, along with a notification stating the location of the scene. Palmer said they are not receiving these alerts.
As for their employment policy, the 911 center referenced the Raleigh County Emergency Services Employee Handbook which states:
“Full time employees may not be employed by other employers which are dispatched by or may conflict with the effective operations of the RCESA. Requests for other employment must be submitted, in written detail, and then approved by the Director before outside employment begins. Forms are available in the Administration Office. Failure to report outside employment may result in disciplinary action or termination.”
Right now, the 911 center has 3 job openings. Included in their press release is a statement reassuring people in Raleigh County their are no delays in call times due to job vacancies.
“Rest assured these vacancies have no effect on 911 call taking or dispatching emergency responders. Raleigh County Emergency Services Authority answers over 5,000 911 emergency calls a month and over 9,000 administrative calls for local Police, Fire, EMS including Animal Control. We assure the public that there is adequate staff on duty around the clock to handle the 911 calls that this agency receives,” the release stated.