Randolph County Commission members are ready to lend their support to improve emergency services in the Pickens area.
Since approximately 1995, residents of the Pickens/Helvetia/Czar areas have communicated emergency situations with the Upshur County 911 center. Now, members of the Pickens Volunteer Fire Department are working with Marvin Hill, director of the Randolph County Office Emergency Services; and 911 Director Jim Wise to establish a plan to ensure residents experiencing an emergency in the more remote area of the county can receive help more quickly through the Randolph County 911 center.
Pickens Fire Department Assistant Chief Chuck Dulaney requested approximately $20,000 in funding from commissioners Thursday to upgrade the emergency radio system for the area. Dulaney explained that because the fire department does not have a way to communicate with the Randolph County 911 center, calls must go to the Upshur County 911 center, which then advises Randolph County's 911 employees about the situation. Upshur County 911 has to set off tones and pager calls to emergency crews because Randolph County cannot, Dulaney said. Because there is a 911 system in Randolph County, the Pickens Fire Department wants to communicate with its home county.
"This is time you don't have," Dulaney said regarding emergency response. "It's impossible to work like that. This jumping back and forth isn't working."
The proposed plan to improve communications includes placing a repeater system at the Division of Highways tower, located near Pickens and Helvetia, and upgrading the Randolph County 911 center. The repeater system will be able to set off the Pickens Fire Department's siren and volunteer firefighters' pagers, Dulaney explained.
Hill and Wise said they fully support the plan to upgrade communication services.
Wise said Dulaney has a legitimate concern for Randolph County residents, who are paying taxes, as well as emergency workers.
"We need to take care of them and help them do their job," Wise said. "If we can't speak to them, and we have no communication with them, we're leaving them out in the dark. Upshur County has to service them, and they are Randolph County residents. I support (the fire department's request) wholly."
Commission President Mike Taylor asked those involved with the plan to provide more details during the March 1 commission meeting.
Taylor also is considering ways to fund the upgrade, including using some funds from the coal bed methane fund, and he asked Wise to ask the 911 Council if money could be taken from the capital improvement fund.
"It is a serious matter," Taylor said. "Those types of delays in an emergency can be very frustrating, especially if you're the person on the other end waiting for the fire department or the ambulance to get there. Time is of the essence."