Roachdale VFD looking for dispatch solutions

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

With lost seconds meaning the difference in life and death, a reliable communication system is essential for emergency responders. With this in mind, Roachdale Fire Department officials approached the Putnam County Commissioners on Monday.

Fire Chief Mike Poole and Larry Windmiller of the Roachdale Fire Protection District told the commissioners their department has had trouble receiving pager dispatches for several years.

Describing for the commissioners how the dispatch process works, Poole said the department's specific tones have to be activated by 911 Dispatch for the pager of each firefighter to be activated.

The chief estimated that approximately every 10th tone is not getting through to the pagers.

"It's kind of a liability for us," Poole said. "If we don't show up to somebody's house fire, that's a problem."

Poole went on to say that there are three ways the fire department is notified, but each of the other two has its limits.

The department is notified via 800 MHz radios, but only officers possess these radios.

Each firefighter also receives a text message upon dispatch, but these do not come in immediately. Some can take a couple of hours if the individual happens to be in a spot without mobile reception.

Which brings the problem back to the pagers. With Roachdale firefighters spread around Franklin and Jackson townships, a solution is needed for the entire area.

Poole said he has approached 911 Director Dave Costin several times over the years. He said Costin has always had ideas about how to correct the problem, but that nothing has seemed to work.

The problem appears to be the change in elevation between Bainbridge and Roachdale that puts the latter community downhill from the prime spot to receive dispatches from Greencastle.

Farther west, Russellville Fire Department does not seem to be having a similar problem.

One plan enacted previously was placing a relay on top of North Putnam High School. While this is a solid idea on the surface, it has not always helped.

Additionally, the relay stops working whenever the power goes out. Poole pointed out that fire departments are often at their busiest during power outages.

With other plans failing, Poole and Windmiller brought the problem to the commissioners.

"We feel it's a serious liability, let alone that people need our help," Poole said.

The commissioners agreed, with Commissioner David Berry, a Jackson Township resident, commenting that the department had shown amazing patience in waiting several years to approach the commissioners.

Further solutions will need to be discussed with Costin, who was not in attendance on Monday.

The issue will be back on the agenda for the 9 a.m. meeting on Monday, Aug. 4, with Poole and Costin both in attendance. The commissioners hope such a meeting will get Roachdale and Putnam County on the path to a solution.

The brief meeting also featured a road update from County Highway Supervisor Mike Ricketts. He reported that road work is ahead of schedule for the summer.

The highway department is currently doing chip and seal work in Washington Township. Ricketts said from there, his workers will move north and eventually east, concluding their work in the Heritage Lake area.

In repaving work, three roads are completed, with only two remaining.

"I'd like to thank my guys," Ricketts said. "They've been busting their butts, doing a good job."

Ricketts also reported having to close a small bridge structure on County Road 275 West in northwest Franklin Township. The closure does not affect access to any homes.

Only a farmer uses the road with any regularity, and Ricketts indicated he had alternative means of accessing the grain bins located nearby.

In one final order of business, the commissioners appointed Justin Haddon as an at-large member of the Putnam County Animal Control Board.

Haddon will replace Putnam County Councilman Phil Gick on the 10-member board. As a Washington Township resident, Haddon will give the Reelsville area its first representative on the board.

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