Not all volunteer firefighters receiving 911 pages
by Jason Collins
Aug 19, 2014 | 3318 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lt. Ronnie Jones says that Victoria Communications would be his recommendation to look further into why firefighters aren’t receiving calls.
Lt. Ronnie Jones says that Victoria Communications would be his recommendation to look further into why firefighters aren’t receiving calls.
BEEVILLE – Communication problems seem to be plaguing the county.

Now it is the emergency dispatchers who are unable to notify volunteer firefighters when there is a fire, wreck or other emergency in the county.

Mike Willow, county emergency management coordinator, said, “It is a grave concern when they are not able to get the page to go to a fire.”

County firefighters are dispatched based upon the location of the fire and the expected amount of support needed.

“We have had issues with the paging system more so in south Bee County than north Bee County,” Willow said.

They have tested the pagers, and they seem to be working. The problem seems to be in getting the signal to the pagers from the sheriff’s office.

“When the system is paged,... out of the 25 pagers, 12 or 13 pagers would go off,” Willow said.

“They reset the system, set the pagers off again, and the other 12 or 13 go off.

“They reset the system again, and none of them go off.”

Even Motorola was confused about the situation.

“Motorola thought we were crazy, but they tested the system, and they experienced the same thing,” he said.

Victoria Communications, which handles much of the radio work for the county sheriff’s office, was approved as the company to look at the hardware side and see what was wrong.

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt cited this as an emergency and that they needed to get this problem resolved quickly.

“This is a health and safety issue. We cannot wait three or four weeks to do it,” he said.

Willow said that there is no way of knowing what the problem was without having technicians first look at the equipment used to generate and send the emergency pages.

For now, Skidmore volunteers are receiving their emergency calls for help.

“Through Blackboard Connect we set up a paging system as a band-aid,” Willow said.

At the courthouse, things seem to be running smoother.

The county’s phone system is still up and running, but that isn’t stopping county leaders from preparing for another collapse.

For the past couple of weeks, county offices have been without phones because of problems with the digital phone system.

Time Warner, last week, switched out the hardware that controlled the Internet, and that seemed to fix the problem. The county leaders also approved adding a fiber optic line to handle the phone system.

Craig Oliver, IT director, told the court last week that they needed a more stable connection to ensure that packets of data would not be lost and the phone system would stay working.

This new line will likely take several weeks to install, but for now, the new hardware is keeping the phone system running.

On Monday, the county leaders were told that on a moment’s notice they could activate up to 12 no contract phones in case communication with the public was lost.

April Cantu, interim county auditor, said, “We have a total of 12 phones, and we do have some quotes here.”

She went through the various companies offering non-contract pricing of $25 per month.

While there no immediate need to activate the phones, the option is now there.

Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez said, “If need be, if we start having problems again, we are able to call an emergency meeting and move on that item.”

The phones are not anything fancy — simple old-school flip phones.

“This is all we need in our offices,” District Clerk Zenaida Silva said. “There are 12, and I think that would be enough.”

Commissioner Ken Haggard said, “We have a contingency plan right here.”

All of this brought to light another complaint that people have about the phone system — having to navigate the sometimes long automated menu of departments.

Oliver said, “We have always had the ability to give individual (direct lines) for those departments.”

He just needed, and received Monday, commissioner approval to activate the numbers.

Oliver said that this would simplify the system for those making frequent calls to the same office.

“If somebody doesn’t know what the direct number is, they can still get through in the main number and get to that person,” Oliver said. “It gives you the best of both worlds.”

The other complaint – the speed of the voice messages.

“We do have plans to shorten that and speed it up.”

“I am here to try to try and make things easier.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at
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August 20, 2014
Active 911 is a system that utilizes smart phones as a paging system. It will allow you to see who is responding and even map the rout. The Fulton fire department has been using it for a while now. It may be worth looking into. Even as an auxiliary system.