Homeworth firefighters: Don’t call 911, just call us

LISBON – Another fire department is suggesting anyone needing emergency assistance should bypass 911 and call them directly.

Brian Baker of the Homeworth Fire Department was the latest fire chief to make such a suggestion, doing so at this week’s meeting of the Columbiana County 911 Committee.

“911 isn’t a bad system. It’s a problem of just how the cellphone works, and sometimes those calls bounce around” and do not go to the correct answering center, he said.

County 911 Director Robert Emmons was taken aback by the suggestion. “You don’t think 911 is the best (option) when you need assistance?” he asked.

“No,” Baker replied, saying when possible the person should call their fire department directly to avoid the possibility of the calling be routed to the wrong answering center.

Emmons conceded sometimes the calls are at the mercy of the closest cellphone tower, but calling 911 is always the best option because of the time it saves and the fact the dispatcher can automatically identify the caller and location. He said even when a call goes to the wrong answering center it can automatically be rerouted to the proper destination within the time it takes for the dispatcher to hit the transfer button on the computer.

Over the past two years, the Glenmoor and Calcutta fire departments have also recommended St. Clair Township residents call their fire number directly when possible because of 911 routing problems causing inordinate delays. Emmons refuted most of the allegations about the system’s alleged deficiencies.

He said even in those instances when a call is routed to the wrong answering center, it is still better to use 911 because if someone screams they have an emergency and the call goes dead, the dispatcher is usually able to identify the caller and location.

“I’m not knocking the system. That’s not what I’m saying,” but there are occasional problems with calls going to the wrong answering center and the delay can be critical, Baker said.

Emmons believes those problems will be all but be eliminated when they upgrade to Next Generation 911. “Will it clear up some of the questionable areas? Yes,” he said.

Lt. Joseph Dragovich of the Lisbon Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol believes the county’s 911 system is one of the better systems in northeast Ohio based on his experience from working in other counties.