Pitt County emergency manager asking for more 911 dispatchers

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Pitt County emergency management director Noel Lee requested eight additional 911 dispatchers during Monday’s commissioners meeting.

He made the request as the county’s upgraded radio system allows fire departments to use tactical channels.

Tactical channels are separate from the main dispatch channel and are used in emergencies like a structural fire.

Dispatchers would communicate the initial call on the dispatch channel, and dispatchers and firefighters responding to the call would communicate on a separate tactical channel.

This is supposed to improve communications; a lack of communications can lead to a firefighter getting injured or killed.

But Pitt County dispatchers aren’t yet monitoring the tactical channels.

“We do not feel that we have the staffing to do that where it is reliable and consistent,” Lee said.

He asked commissioners for additional dispatchers to monitor tactical channels.

Bell Arthur Fire Department Chief Virgil O’Neal said the current system forces him to constantly switch between the dispatch and tactical channels.

It created a life-threatening problem two years ago when one of his firefighters got injured after a roof collapsed.

“It was probably a delay of a few seconds to a minute or so because of having to switch channels back and forth,” Chief O’Neal said. “A few seconds [means] a lot.”

Pitt County commissioners will decide whether to fund the additional dispatchers during their budget talks in the coming months.

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