Alert tones for the Forsyth County Fire Department have been locking up the radio system during nighttime emergencies, but a fix is on the way.
Pat Giordano, director of the local 911 center, reported the issue and possible solutions to the E-911 Advisory Board during a Monday meeting.
The current radio system is patched with an older system, used by the volunteer firefighters, Giordano said.
During a fire, she said, the radio is locked up for 5 seconds for each tone sent out because the patch can’t send the alerts out simultaneously.
“If it was a residential fire, it could have up to about seven different stations that would need to be alerted,” Giordano said. “In the middle of the night, in a regular residential fire, there are 35 seconds of locked time. The dispatchers can’t talk to anybody and the field units can’t talk to anybody.”
A commercial fire could lock up the radio for up to 50 seconds, she said.
Correcting the problem could increase the department’s average response time from anywhere in that window, Giordano said.
“I hate to say we’re dead on the water, but everybody’s waiting for that block of time to stop,” she said.
The 911 center sends out the tones only at night to ensure firefighters are awake. During the day, the burden falls to the individual stations.
The most price-effective solution, she said, would be to buy portable radios for the 800-system to give to volunteer firefighters.
Chief Danny Bowman said the length of time for the tones to go through the system is “unacceptable.”
“I will assure everyone in this room that’s now a top priority of mine,” Bowman said.
Discussion on the issue arose as part of an ad hoc committee of employees from the 911 center, fire department and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Giordano said.
The group has been meeting monthly to discuss procedures and solve operating issues, she said.
“It’s done a lot for the rapport between the 911 center and the fire department and the deputies,” Giordano said. “We tend to solve a lot of smaller operational issues that may come up.”
The advisory board agreed to discuss issues for which the ad hoc group may not be able to find solutions, such as the fire department alert system.