Fire official expresses concern

Upshur County Commission members heard recently about issues that were hindering the response of local fire departments and dispatch capabilities.

Lt. Joey Baxa of the Buckhannon Fire Department spoke on behalf of the Upshur County Firefighters Association to address the concerns and offer some possible solutions.

The concerns involve the county fire departments not yet having access to the new mapping and addressing data, fire department pagers not working in all areas and delays with the incorporation of a wireless link between the 911 center and radio towers.

“We’ve got to move forward,” Baxa said. “If we don’t find a way to move forward, I’m afraid we’re going to be stagnant. We’ve got to have some sort of action.”

Commissioner Troy Brady said all three issues need to be addressed.

In regard to mapping and addressing access for the fire departments and emergency officials, Baxa said the data could be very helpful in allowing the fire department to pre-plan routes for roadway incidents. He said this would prevent an incident where a fire truck might not be able to cross a specific bridge. He said the technology access was a safety initiative for both citizens and responders.

“We realize the potential that this has to help us,” Baxa said. “It’ll help this county be safer, our response more efficient and make us more proficient on scene. This is no different. This is what we’re asking for to protect our lives and the lives of the citizens of Upshur County.”

Commissioner JC Raffety said an insurance concern may be what stalled the process.

“We were not opposed to that transfer of information to the fire departments and other departments,” Raffety said. “The city would have to take out an insurance policy that would protect us in the event of some misinformation being put into the system.”

Baxa said he understood that the County Commission would be concerned about potential litigation if the information led to a mistake in an address. Administrator Willie Parker said it would be easy for the commission to have the fire departments placed on its insurance at no charge to the county, but it may require a certification fee from the fire agencies.

“Wouldn’t you want to know that (emergency agencies) are equipped with the knowledge to get them there the quickest?” Baxa asked.

Technology also plays a role in another concern Baxa addressed. He asked the commission to research what it would take to set up a way for the 911 center to alert firefighters of emergencies by sending a text message to their cellphones in addition to paging. This would allow emergency officials to reduce radio traffic and communication problems during emergencies, and allow a quick response to alert how many fire officials will respond to an emergency.

Baxa also said he has been told numerous times that the wireless link between the 911 center and the radio towers has been approved, but he has yet to see it become a reality. Baxa requested a date for the completion of the project.

“At times the association feels as though the people that are able to make this project be finished forget how important it is that we keep radio communications between our first responders and the 911 center at all times,” Baxa said. “The phone line has constantly been an issue in the event of severe weather.”