York County first responders cope with 911 paging system outage

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YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- Anyone in York County who needs to call 911 for help probably won't notice that since Saturday, there's been an outage with the paging system that's used to alert first responders.

However, the paging system outage does make a difference for EMS crews, and especially for volunteer firefighters who rely on those pages.

As of Monday night, York County officials reported the York County fire and EMS paging system to be partially restored, operating at a limited capacity. Fire and EMS responders are still encouraged to staff stations accordingly in order to stay tuned to the radio system.

Seven towers are operating on an internal timing which may cause garbled messages to be sent, while crews in southeastern York County will still have trouble receiving pages. Reception of pages in buildings remained a problem.

Some say the paging system outage gives cause for an alarm in Wrightsville, York County that others fought to silence.

Wrightsville Fire and Rescue chief Chad Livelsberger said "we can still notify the volunteers that are home, that are not staffed in the firehouse of an emergency without actually having to depend on the 911 system."

Livelsberger believes an outage with York County's 911 paging system is proof of why keeping the fire department's siren is more important than ever.

"Every second counts. It's actually very scary at this point knowing that there could be a chance that we're not notified of an emergency," Livelsberger said.

The York County 911 paging system that's used to alert emergency responders through a GPS satellite is down due a software issue.

York County communications director Mark Walters said "this situation that we're presently experiencing is not affecting communications with police departments. It's also not affecting the public' ability to reach 911 dispatchers."

White Rose Ambulance vice-president of operations Ted Hake said "we have a 24-hour dispatch center staffed by one to two dispatchers that are able to monitor the dispatch talk groups, record the call, put it into our computer aided dispatch system, and send it out to our crews phones."

The backup process White Rose Ambulance uses for dispatchers to get the message out to emergency responders isn't as direct as when the system is working.

"Normally, they receive an audible alert on a pager, and they know there's a call. Now, they are listening to a radio, listening for the words 'York City,' or 'Station 250.' So, it's really stressful for our dispatchers," Hake said.

There is an app or two for that, but those who rely on getting information quickly to save lives say it's not good enough.

"We noticed a bit of a delay in receiving the Active911 dispatch," Hake said.

"They do say that those types of apps are working but we're having hit or miss luck with it," Livelsberger said

"It's less than optimal, and it needs to be corrected quickly," Hake said.