After Action Reports Reveal Need For Shorter Emergency Radio Ton - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

After Action Reports Reveal Need For Shorter Emergency Radio Tones

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Keeping the lines of communication open during a major fire.

It's a difficult thing to accomplish, and is something Scott County wants to tweak.

The response to the Del's fire in Eldridge tested the policies at the County's combined dispatch center.

Fire departments across the county were called to help, but one call put the dispatch center in a tough position.

The communication logs show three fire departments were dispatched within minutes of the first call coming in... Eldridge, Donahue, and Davenport.

Each department getting its own radio page and text message.

That's the procedure dispatchers are supposed to follow, but when the Eldridge fire department asked for water tankers from across the County, a dispatcher made a difficult decision.

"When it comes to a few different agencies it's not a problem, but when you've got to request everybody involved it takes a lot more for the dispatch to make that happen," says Scott Emergency Communications Center Director Brian Hitchcock. He says dispatchers rely on radio tones to get emergency crews rolling and the center's policy shows radio pages are required to be sent. The logs show a call for water tankers was sent only through text.

"That was an operational decision at that point because of the radio traffic that was happening, because if we would have had to page each and every fire department, we would have had to page 13 different times," says Hitchcock.

Jamming up the radio for at least ten minutes. E-mails to the center show fire chiefs supported the decision. Keeping the radio channel open to firefighters attacking the fire. The after action review says otherwise. "The need for tankers should not be done by text. It should be done by toning and paging," says the report.

Hitchcock says, "You can send out a text page and somebody can receive it later than real time."

The review shows a Long Grove firefighter did not receive a text until 7:15 that night. Two hours after the crews had been cleared. The text did not cause water tankers to get to the Del's fire any slower. Hitchcock says it showed a need to shorten the radio tones.

"What we have to do is tighten up those pages into a smaller group to consume less time."

The center is looking at modifying its weather alert system. Allowing it to cut the number of radio pages in half. Because Hitchcock says the county's radio system can't be replaced by a text.

"We will still require that radio paging tone to go out," says Hitchcock.

Ensuring a prompt response to any emergency.

The communications center says a bigger upgrade to tie together all its towers and eliminate the radio tone problem costs too much.

It's estimated it would cost 400-thousand dollars to complete that upgrade.

The Quad City Air show crash last Labor Day weekend remains the communications center's biggest response test in its two year history.