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911 system in ‘critical stage,’ township warns

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

By Justin Dennis


For some communities such as Coitsville Township, Mahoning County’s fire dispatching service is “in a critical stage,” with abnormally long delays caused by a call-routing system that is “costing lives.”

Coitsville Fire Department Chief George Brown presented that issue during a Mahoning County commissioners meeting Monday evening at the township hall.

Recently, a township resident performed CPR for 24 minutes on an unresponsive parent while waiting for township responders to be dispatched, he said. On a recent fire call, mutual-aid departments such as Campbell, Hubbard, Poland and Pulaski Township weren’t dispatched for 26 minutes, he said.

As the majority of 911 calls are now made by cellphone, they’re picked up by the nearby cellular tower with the strongest signal. For a Coitsville Township 911 call – which ultimately needs to reach Boardman Township’s 911 center – that tower often ends up being in Trumbull County, Brown said.

The calls are then forwarded to one of myriad ambulance dispatchers serving the township or its mutual-aid departments, he said.

The department recommends township residents don’t even call 911, rather the 10-digit number for LifeFleet or the Boardman 911 dispatchers.

“If your house is on fire, think about the time it’s taking just to get people on the road to help you,” Brown said. “It’s a problem throughout the county.”

Brown said when the county adopted 911 dispatching services, fire was not included, only police and EMS services. He recommended tying all county fire services into one centralized center.

Audrey Tillis, executive director for the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, said the county’s 911 Council of Governments – which includes the county and Austintown and Boardman townships – has discussed the issue with the county Fire Chiefs Association, but there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of departments in the county to coordinate.

“Centralizing dispatch is a big question and it’s something the Fire Chiefs Association is looking at and wanting the COG to consider,” she said. “The system first has to be built out for what it needs to do now. Once that infrastructure is in place, we’ll have the ability to start working on these other uses.”

Others to address commissioners Monday included Jane Spies of Hubbard, a member of FrackFree America, an oil-and-gas watchdog group that is raising awareness about a hydraulic fracturing wastewater injection well proposed for the Coitsville area.

Spies urged commissioners to pen a letter to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources urging it to reconsider the well’s development.

Commissioners on Monday also presented a $56,500 check to township trustees, part of its 2018 Community Development Block Grant funding awards, which trustees plan to put toward extending Galluppi Lane.

Anna DeAscentis, commissioners’ grant coordinator, said it’s currently “impossible” for firetrucks to reach homes in the dead-end cul-de-sac.