The county’s radio system was a topic for discussion at a recent meeting of the Harlan County Emergency Management E-911 Advisory Board.
Emergency Management Director David McGill told members the contract for the Black Mountain Tower Site through Cornett Electronics has not been paid due to not having the equipment to develop the site.
“I will hopefully know more within the next two to three weeks whether we can get this,” said McGill. “With the money crunch that the county is in I figure every dollar we can save is a good thing.”
Barbara Burkhart, chief of the Bledsoe Volunteer Fire Department, said Bledsoe is having radio problems communicating not only with Kentucky State Police (KSP), but also communicating among each other en route or on the scene. She also said the problem is throughout their fire service district — not limited to one specific area.
“We can’t connect with KSP when we need to,” said Burkhart. “Either they’re not hearing us or we’re having dead zones. I’ve tried to rotate towers to see if we can connect when we’re in different areas and we’re still not getting any response. I don’t know if there are just certain areas that are dead zones or if we’re just not getting out. We’re having trouble communicating between each other with our radios.”
County radio technician Cary Johnson stated the equipment for the Leslie County Emergency Operation Center is ready to be installed for communications between the two counties and for the Bledsoe Volunteer Fire Department — providing mutual aid calls within Leslie County.
Johnson said he is waiting on them to contact him as to when he may install the equipment.
“We’re having some major issues with Leslie County,” said Burkhart. “We only have three functioning radios that work with Leslie County. It’s a real issue especially with responding firefighters and I’m real concerned about accidents and stuff. Cell phones are practically useless down on that end. You can’t contact them a lot of times. But, we really need something soon.”
Harlan Fire Chief Linette Hutchison asked Johnson if there was any way the fire department and police department could talk on the same channel or group. She said at this time the only way it could be done is if both agencies switched over to the trunking system and used the mutual aid channel.
“We’re having a big discussion, at least for the city of Harlan. When we respond to a motor vehicle accident, in order to talk to the police, we’re having to flip channels back and forth. It’s getting to be a headache,” said Hutchison. “Is there any way for the city of Harlan and the police to be on one and have one section like a city section? Does that sound feasible?”
Johnson said the radios can be programmed “any way you want,” as long as the board agrees to that.
“We go out on a lot of stuff together and we can’t talk to each other,” said Harlan City Police Chief Mike Thomas.
McGill asked Cary if paging can be done on the trunking system. Johnson responded, saying it could be and he would check on getting everything set up and online to be able to do so.
Harlan County Rescue Squad Capt. Chris Allen said some of his members are having problems receiving the alphanumeric pages up KY 38 and in the Evarts area.
McGill said he thinks alphanumeric pagers are “outdated” and that “using eDispatch or text messaging would be better as a secondary paging system instead of the pagers.”
“Not all of my people carry radios,” said Hutchison. “There are actually some people who don’t have cell phones.”
In other board action:
*Thomas made a motion to install the trunking system mutual aid channel at the Harlan headquarters. The motion was seconded by Allen. All other members were in agreement.
*McGill told members the new radio system’s standard operating guidelines have not been officially implemented. Allen made a motion to rescind the guidelines and Burkhart seconded that motion. Allen and Burkhart voted in favor with Thomas, Hutchison and Wallins Fire Chief Dean Green voting against. The motion did not pass.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, email@example.com