Local Firefighters Concerned About 911 Response Times

RALEIGH COUNTY– Imagine being in an emergency situation and calling for help but it takes at least 20 minutes for someone to arrive. That’s what the Raleigh County Firefighters Association believes is happening all too often.

“If it takes 5-7 minutes for us to get that initial notification of that fire, that is critical time that is lost responding to that incident. Those 5-7 minutes could be more of someone’s property that is lost, those 5-7 minutes could be someone’s life that is lost,” Bobby Palmer, the Interim Fire Chief of the Bradley/Prosperity VFD said.

But the Raleigh County 911 center says with only 3-6 operators on a shift and sometimes 20 calls coming in at once they do the best they can.

“The response time that we have here at the 911 center can vary according to the caller that you have on the 911 call at the time. Some callers are quick to give information and some don’t freely give up information,” said John Zilinski, Director of 911 and Emergency Services in Raleigh County.

In Raleigh County, Fire calls use a pre-alert system in order to help cut back on wasted time.

Zilinski explains, “Once the dispatcher takes a 911 call, they have to get all the information down and the fire department is drug onto the call on our CAD system which pre-alerts all the departments by their cell phone. Then a tone is given off across the radio to state that there is a fire in that area and gives the location only.”

But Palmer says this system hasn’t been used the way it was intended for a very long time.

“It has been months and months ago since they have actually followed that policy and procedures guideline. I really just couldn’t tell you the exact time.”

The fire association and the 911 center have been holding meetings to try to work on guidelines and policies to help with these issues. Because when it comes down to it, it could be your life on the line.

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Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com