Drill Highlights ‘Dead Zone’ For Emergency Communication

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Emergency responders are trying to fix a communication error that could impact response times in a large emergency.

An emergency drill at Watkins Memorial High School over the summer highlighted the problem – different departments were using different radio frequencies to communicate.

In addition, Watkins Memorial turned into a dead zone for portable radios.

That information did not sit well with Sheri Poole, a parent of a high school freshman.

“Yeah, that’s not OK,” Poole said.

Granville Fire Chief Jeff Hussey said communication issues are an ongoing problem.

“We struggle in this county with the radio system being quickly overwhelmed when there are multiple incidents in progress,” Hussey said.

Hussey said that a multi-agency communications system is the solution to their problems.

The system would allow the fire department, sheriff and police, as well as others, to talk on one channel – something that they cannot do now.

“The MARCS system eliminates some of those barriers,” Hussey said.

Pataskala Police Cpt. Michael Boals said that his officers deal with those barriers every day.

“We have areas in the city we can’t get out on portable radios at all,” Boals said.

He said that without a way for first responders to talk during a crisis, response times could be delayed and lives could be lost.

Pataskala is looking to partner with the West Licking Joint Fire District to help defer some of the cost to build the communication system.

Pataskala City Council has yet to approve the money to pay for it, which is estimated to cost more than $200,000.

Licking County currently is developing a new 911 system that will eventually have the MARCS system.

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