MOUNT VERNON — Concerns about emergency communication were discussed during Tuesday’s meeting of the Knox County Fire and EMS Chiefs Association. According to some of the chiefs present, recent incidents have tested the radio communication among first responders, highlighting areas which need improvement.
Almost a year after an association committee agreed upon the designation and names of the radio channels used by fire departments in the county, some departments have not yet had their radios reprogrammed. Some of the chiefs expressed frustration that the programming is still incomplete.
Chris Menapace, Mount Vernon assistant fire chief, said that when multiple departments recently participated in a search for a missing elderly woman, confusion occurred when he ordered radio traffic over to a channel which remains programmed under different names on the radios of different agencies.
Joe Porter, Central Ohio Joint Fire District chief, asked the chiefs to consider allowing Morrow County 9-1-1 dispatch to use the Knox County primary fire channel to dispatch his department to runs in Morrow County.
“The bottom line is, I’ve got a contracted service area in Morrow County,” Porter said.
He explained that since the current situation requires his department to be dispatched on the Morrow County channel, which his personnel cannot hear on their portable radios or pagers, minutes are sometimes added to the department’s response time in Morrow County.
“By the time my crews get notified in some instances, it’s three or four minutes,” Porter said. “A lot of things could be streamlined by allowing them to use that [Knox County] frequency to dispatch us.”
Because the Knox County chiefs hold the title to the frequency, Porter said the association could make the decision to allow the change. After further discussion, the chiefs passed a motion allowing Morrow County to use the Knox County primary fire channel to dispatch the COJFD. The only traffic permitted from Morrow County dispatch on the Knox County channel will be the dispatch calls.
The chiefs plan to further discuss communication issues at their July meeting.
Knox County EMA director Brian Hess said he anticipates a deputy EMA director will be named soon. Hess said his deputy will be given the task of finding and obtaining additional grant funding to be used for emergency management needs in the county.
“There’s a lot of money out there which should be brought into the county, and an objective of the deputy director will be obtaining grants,” Hess said.
Hess said a meeting is scheduled for today in Columbus to demonstrate how the new computer assisted dispatch software system recently purchased by the county will operate when it is up and running. He said the demonstration will show how the county and city dispatch centers will work together once the new system is installed.
Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy, who was on the software selection committee, encouraged the chiefs to take an active role in the implementation process to make their desires known regarding features of the new system.
“Once this starts going, it’s going to move at a very quick pace,” Christy said, encouraging the chiefs to add their input now. “I think that’s going to benefit us as a group.”
Fire and EMS coverage for the Knox County Fair was discussed. Each department has been asked to cover time at the fair.
Christy told the other members his department will have four college students working to repaint and label all of the fire hydrants in the Mount Vernon fire district this summer. Ths students were hired using grant money.istrict this summer. Ths students were hired using grant money.