Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

March 28, 2012

Commissioners praise 911 dispatch, emergency responders

CROSSVILLE — At the last Emergency Services Committee meeting, at least two county commissioners praised the work of E-911 dispatchers during the storms and the tornado that struck Cumberland County Feb. 29.

"I am proud of 911 dispatch and the way they handled themselves during and after the storm, in spite of all the issues we have going on with the radio system and being located in the temporary room," said Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner. Turner also works as a paramedic with Cumberland County EMS.

Eric Ritzman, P25 radio system manager, explained to the county commissioners that E-911 dispatchers had been temporarily relocated in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) conference room the week the storm struck because new computer systems and upgrades in the dispatch center were being installed.

"They handled the situation very well for being in such a small area," Ritzman said.

"I was proud of all our people up there and out in the field," Turner said.

Jeff Brown, 8th District commissioner, said he has always gone and worked with Keith Garrison, Emergency Management Agency director, when there are severe storms or large-scale emergencies.

"I basically go in there and volunteer for Keith since it's only him and one other person. I act as his gopher and help him out and get whatever he needs. These guys were inundated with calls. To see that dispatch room work was amazing. I am proud of them and what they do," Brown said.

He explained that Garrison and the EOC track the pattern of the storm and they and dispatch make contact with all of the homes in the path of where the storm struck.

"Most people don't realize that, but they know where the storms have struck and they track it and make communication with those homes one way or another — either by phone or door-to-door contact. Most people don't realize how well it's managed," Brown said.

Dr. Mark Fox attended the meeting and said, "This is a big part of why the EOC concept is so important. There are so many people from all the different agencies out there, but we need one person, either the chief or one representative, to be there at the EOC to keep things running smooth."

Turner said, "We also owe the Rescue Squad and all the volunteers a big thanks. These are the people who make sure their families are okay and then leave them to come out and help. They do a lot for us and the county."

"Were there any problems?" Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner and emergency services committee chairperson, asked.

"Well, it (radio system) didn't work too well, but neither did the cell phones," said Terry Carter, 6th District commissioner. Carter also works for the Cumberland County Fire Department.

Ritzman explained that the cell towers were too busy in the same way the radio system was because there too many calls going on at once.

Ritzman said that the tornado struck while the county has been waiting for two antennas to be repaired on the P25 emergency communications system.

"We are waiting for the antennas to be installed and then the tests to be run on them. It will be about a month before they are here. We had some communication issues, but there are plans in place for the next event," Ritzman said.

In general, commissioners and county emergency responders who attended the meeting, said they were impressed with how well everything went during the storms and tornado in Rinnie in spite of the issues with the radio system antennas and the cramped temporary quarters of E-911 dispatch.

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