Fire Departments Unable to Contact Dispatch Center in Emergencies

MADISON COUNTY, Ark. - Communication is key. But for one dispatch center in our region outdated equipment makes answering an emergency call more difficult.

At the Huntsville Fire Department, first responders are dispatched to calls all across Madison County.

But now there's a recent problem that lies on the other end of the line.

On Thursday, a fire broke out in Kingston, and the Huntsville Fire Department responded as fast as it could. 

"When we get on scene, we frequently find out that it is much more significant than the initial call," Chief Kevin Shinn from the Huntsville Fire Department said. 

As the clock is ticking... Firefighters are on their own.... 

"When you are that far out of your home base, you need to be able to contact someone and say hey we need some extra help out here," Chief Shinn said. 

Right now the Madison County radio system does not allow firefighters on scene to contact central dispatch, slowing down vital communications.

Huntsville Fire Chief Kevin Shinn witnesses this frustration firsthand. 

"I mean you are talking about the most basic nature of where we work," Chief Shinn said. "Being able to go out to fire calls and medical calls and not being able to communicate with the people you need. Yeah I would say that is a problem."

Sheriff Rick Evans says they have resorted to the only option. 

"Right now the only way for them to call is a personal cell phone because it is getting harder to replace the parts when they go down," Sheriff Rick Evans from the Madison County Sheriff's Office said. 

"There's many places in our county where cell phone coverage doesn't even work," Chief Shinn said. 

The county is spending $20,000 to repair the current communications system. 

A new system would cost $100,000. 

"They just go bad," Sheriff Evans said. "That is technology and it goes bad but it all comes down to what money is available."

But Chief Shinn says he's already understaffed.

And he doesn't need another problem. 

"Our department is having to cover a lot of territory right now and then you add the communication problem with it and we are trying to figure out what to do as we go forward," Chief Shinn said. 

New parts for the radio dispatch center are set to be in place on April 12, but this is only to get the radio back up and running to its minimum efficiency.

There is no guaranty it will last.

It is up to the Madison County Quorum Court to make a future decision on the budget. I


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