After York Co. 911 paging outage, fire chiefs compare old system to digital one

YORK, Pa. -- Following an 11-day outage with the York County 911 paging system, some fire chiefs said their old system was more reliable.

Eureka Fire Chief Ira Walker said, "I grew up through the old system into the new system. A lot of us were used to having that voice, voiceover to tell us where the location was, what the nature was."

Although some York County fire chiefs said they didn't have many issues with the old system, the county switched over to the digital pagers about 10 years ago. They receive a text message through those pagers.

York City Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff said, "The wishes of the end users weren't really listened to by past administration."

Officials said one of the problems that came along with the digital pagers is an inconvenience while on the roads.

Walker said,  "Obviously when we're driving we're going to have to do what? Look at our pagers and not hear it, we have to look at it. Guess what, we're breaking the law. We're not supposed to be texting while driving and I think it sets a poor example. But nonetheless you have responders who need to know where they're going."

Fire chiefs said a benefit to the digital pagers is responders can go back and check the information.

However, with the technology update can come technical problems. They said with their old pager system, they never had a long outage - nowhere close to 11 days.

Deardorff said,  "It's ironic I guess is the best way to put it. We're trying to move forward and get the best of the best, and you know sometimes the best of the best doesn't work properly all the time."

The recent system outage affected volunteer fire departments, who rely heavily on their pagers.

Walker said, "Lots of your volunteers are either one at work, at home or at an activity of some type, but they're not necessarily at the station."

Some fire chiefs are asking for a backup plan in case the system fails again, and others are looking to better the system they currently have.

Deardorff said, "Maybe we look at a combination. There's combinations of different paging systems out there where it can be voice and on a digital pager."