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October 14, 2020

 

 

  • First responders voice displeasure with Central Utah 911 paging system

By Myrna Trauntvein
TN Correspondent

Members of the Juab County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department have been displeased with the paging by Central Utah 911.

Mika Sperry, county EMSD director, Ann Coombs, Jenille Nielson, Emma Snell, Bryan Peterson, Doug Anderson, Juab County Sheriff; Brent Pulver, Juab County Undersheriff; Travis Kenison, Juab County Sheriff Administrative Lieutenant Emergency Manager, all met with commissioners to discuss the paging service and the problems that the EMSD is having.

In fact, as a group, they had some strong words about the failure of their being paged when they were needed at a recent accident.

“We thought that Central Utah 911 would bring our agencies together,” said Byron Woodland, commissioner, “and instead it has brought animosity.”

He said that he is leaving office in three months and wanted the problem of communication for emergency responders solved before that time.

“It is not Brent’s (Pulver) fault,” said Woodland. “We have dumped this on him but we do have money available for EMS to fix this.”

MOPA, LLC, a full-service repeater and technology company located in West Jordan, has been working with Pulver to upgrade the paging system through tower upgrades.

The licensing has been approved but, he said, these upgrades take time to get in place, up and working. However, the upgrades and high quality equipment were ready.

Landline phones will not be needed for contact and will be dropped.

He said that MOPA LLC would do the upkeep and major repairs on contract if the commission desired.

He would not mind still being the in-house person but the equipment needed to be tuned every two years. It had been 20 years since that had been done in Juab.

“Lets do it,” said Woodland.

The contract could be made under the bidding process as a professional service which would not require that bidding be done and that the commission could enter into the contract soon, said Ryan Peters, county attorney.

“The paging system has not worked for the last three weeks,” said Nielson. “We have been relying on our phones and it is like being on house arrest when you are on call.”

That was because the responders had to stay in the house with the phone just in case. She suggested that the commission go out for bid for a professional to make it work for all.

Snell said that there had been a rollover at Little Sahara and Eureka was not notified. She had called dispatch and the person on the other end had not been nice.

“It was down all that Sunday,” she said. “It was not fair to anyone and, if someone in similar circumstances died, it would turn into a lawsuit.”

Richard Hansen, acting commission chairman in Clinton Painter’s absence, said that the commissioners were dedicated to getting to the bottom of the problem.

Peterson said that on Thursday night EMSD had two calls and, on the second call out, it took 40 minutes for the department to get notification. That was a safety issue because these calls were often life or death.

“How would you feel if that was you or your family?” asked Sperry.

Coombs said that even the public was upset.

“We need one person in charge,” said Hansen. “This falls under the sheriff’s office.”

The sheriff’s office does not have any person who is trained in tech and who has a background in technology, said Anderson. Pulver had taken it upon himself to do the job and had learned a great deal.

The system the sheriff’s office had been on in the past was not in compliance with federal and state regulations.

“We need to have one person responsible for the system,” said Hansen.

He suggested that a professional maintenance company would be a good thing to consider.

“We are equally concerned about life and safety,” said Anderson. “Brent is a police officer and he has stepped up.”

“I need a backup plan,” said Sperry.

“Just 15 years ago,” said Coombs, “we had a two to four minute response time. The old system worked well.”

She said that EMSD was better than a 40 minute response time caused by lack of proper paging.

Pulver said that 14 years ago when he started working with the paging system, it was in shambles. The equipment had failed and the county had exceeded the life of the equipment.

Snell asked who should be called when things were not working.

“I have been called in the middle of the night,” said Pulver. “Call me. It is just as important to the sheriff and to me as it is to you. Things break and need to be fixed and somebody needs to be willing to do that.”

Hansen asked why none of the EMSD had been called by the pager.

“There is no way for them to tell if the page went through,” said Pulver. “They know the page was sent.”

Sperry said that when no one had responded within 40 minutes, someone should have been able to tell that they should be called.

Pulver said that he was unaware of the incident but would ask for the records to be pulled and would see what had happened. He said that he and Kenison worked as a team.

“I would like to see all EMSD have 800 radios,” said Pulver. “VHF remains in use.”

Over the past 40 years, new land-mobile radio (LMR) systems gradually have moved from VHF (150-174 MHz) to UHF (450-470 MHz), and more recently to 800 MHz. This progression from low to high frequencies is done because law enforcement believes that 800 MHz performs better than VHF in real-world environments.

“We use VHF on the West Desert,” said Kenison.

Woodland said that he could contact Special Service District 2 about funding radio purchases.

“We have been reactive instead of providing routine maintenance,” Pulver said. “We need somebody to provide routine maintenance.”

MOPA works with American Fork Fire Department, Bluffdale Fire Department, Draper Fire Department, Lone Peak Fire Department, Murray Fire Department, South Davis Metro Fire, South Jordan Fire Department, South Jordan City, South Salt Lake Fire Department, Unified Fire Authority, Valley Emergency Communications Center, West Jordan Fire Department, West Valley Fire Department and West Valley City.