Paging outage cuts off communication to first responders

Firefighters faced a huge fire early Thursday morning in York. Dispatchers sent out two calls for more help, but in the midst of the third alarm, their paging system crashed.

The pagers carried by all York County firefighters went silent. Those pagers alert the firefighters and EMTs to the emergencies they need to respond to.

“The command officer is most likely expecting more units to come in to assist and there’s none coming,” says Scott Livelsberger, deputy chief of the Wrightsville Fire and Rescue Company. “Because there’s none being dispatched.”

Livelsberger says if another incident happened at the time the system was down, no one would have known to go help.

The York County Department of Emergency services says their computerized paging system went down. There’s a backup system that can still reach all the pagers- but it was already broken.

According to protocol, fire chiefs should then have received a phone call, telling them to man their stations to be dispatched over the phone. But that never happened.

The paging system was down for about an hour, starting at 1:15 a.m., and no first responders were notified.

“What’s it going to take the county of York, commissioners, state representatives, to fix this before someone does get killed?” says Chad Livelsberger, fire chief of Wrightsville Fire and Rescue Company.

York County says it was a failure by its staff to follow protocol. The Department of Emergency Services spokesman says, “The failure of the system and our personnel is unacceptable and is being comprehensively addressed.”

The statement says the department will take “corrective action” that “could include employee discipline and/or retraining.”

The spokesman also says parts are on the way to repair the backup paging system.