"Workshop seeks dispatch solutions" by: Mike Reddell

Sentinel photo/Jessica Shepard
Markham Fire Chief Robert Henske makes a point during the county workshop on the emergency dispatch network.

   Solutions to Matagorda County emergency response dispatch problems were proposed by fire chiefs, police chiefs, EMS coordinators and county officials at a dispatch workshop Friday morning, Sept. 7.
   “Coordination is crucial here – if we all coordinate and communicate,” County Judge Nate McDonald said.
   McDonald organized the workshop in the wake of recent complaints about dropped or misdirected calls in the county’s network of emergency communications involving police, sheriff’s office and EMS operations.
   “How does that happen?” the judge asked.
   “One of our biggest duties is to protect those who work for us.”
   There were 35 people – including most county fire chiefs, police chiefs, EMS officials and Sheriff Skipper Osborne - at the courthouse workshop and McDonald worked to get responses from most of those attending. 
   McDonald also had several county department heads present to help work on possible solutions.
   “I don’t have an agenda” about fixing the dispatch problems, the judge said, adding “But I hope someone in this room does.
   “I want to get to a plan where we don’t endanger lives,” he said.
   Each county commissioner noted the dispatch situation.
   “I’m aware of the problems with dispatch. We have to solve this problem. I think we need better communication,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Graham.
   “I have four (volunteer fire) departments,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Bubba Frick and “every one of them has problems with dispatch.”
   Precinct 3 Commissioner James Gibson noted that Palacios has a unique problem.
   “I think there is confusion from my standpoint. I don’t even know how many dispatch agencies we have,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Kent Pollard.
   Dispatching problems include the time connecting the appropriate agency to respond to emergencies – sending firefighters to fires, police and deputies to law enforcement issues and EMS to situations where people are hurt.
   Misdirected calls include sending more agencies than needed to an emergency, or not sending the correct first responder.
   “The county should be the one to call out” in an emergency, the sheriff said.
   “Not running down PD (Bay City Police Department), but they don’t know the locations in the county,” Osborne said.

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