Accident at Berlin? Who do you call?
By Peter H. Milliken
The township fire chief and trustees say people reporting waterfront emergencies at Berlin Lake should call the Deerfield Fire Department’s 10-digit emergency number, rather than dialing 911, to get the fastest and best-equipped response.
“You lose about two minutes each time you switch hands,” among emergency dispatchers transferring calls, said Miles Felmly, Deerfield fire chief.
“It doesn’t really matter who’s answering your calls as long as they know who to dispatch,” he added.
When people call the Deerfield Fire Department’s emergency number at 330-584-2222, a Ravenna police dispatcher answers and immediately dispatches Deerfield firefighters by radio, Felmly said.
The township trustees authorized posting and distribution of cards at community meetings and local boat ramps and businesses, which urge Berlin Lake campers and boaters to program that 10-digit number into their speed dialing systems, Felmly said.
The Deerfield Fire Department is equipped with its own ambulance and two rescue and recovery boats and staffed round the clock at its station, Felmly said.
All Deerfield firefighters are trained for winter ice rescues; three-quarters of the department’s firefighters are trained to work with the Portage County Water Rescue [dive] Team; and 85 percent of Berlin Lake is in Deerfield Township, Portage County, Felmly said.
Cellular 911 calls often go to dispatchers on the Mahoning County side of the lake, and those calls may be rerouted several times, Felmly said. The routing of the calls depends on the caller’s location in or along the 18.6-mile-long lake, he said.
In a July 7 drowning at the Mill Creek Campground in Berlin Township on the Mahoning County side of the lake, a cellular 911 call from the scene was answered by a Mahoning County 911 dispatcher, who routed it to a Sebring police dispatcher, who simultaneously called out Berlin and Deerfield firefighters, according to Maggi McGee, Mahoning County 911 director.
McGee and Sgt. Brad Bucey of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Canfield Post observed that 911 is a nearly universal, convenient, and easy to remember emergency number for everyone, including visitors who aren’t familiar with local geography and jurisdictions.
Eighty percent or more of 911 calls are now made from cellular phones, McGee said.
“It’s not even 30 seconds” consumed in transferring a 911 call, McGee said. “Transferring these calls doesn’t take two minutes,” she added.
“I’m not concerned so much with who has jurisdiction. I’d rather everybody sit down at the table and find a solution for the lake issue because it borders multiple counties,” McGee said. “I would want the fastest and best response we can give them,” she said of emergency callers.
McGee was referring to the jurisdictional issues associated with parts of Berlin Lake being in Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties.