Washington County (NY) Seeks to Streamline 911 Center

Washington County’s 911 center continues to grapple with an increase in call volume since taking over Hudson Falls dispatching duties without adding staff, and the center is aiming to lighten the load.

But some of the ideas floated to do that — streamlining radio announcements, cutting Tuesday night radio tests and cutting back on pager tests — have drawn concern from at least one fire department in the county.

“I think our department and most of the smaller departments need that contact to make sure we’re ready to roll at a minute’s notice,” said Hebron firefighter George Flint, a past fire chief and a town councilman. “I was personally concerned and concerned for my department.”

Fire company representatives heard about the possible changes recently at a fire advisory board meeting, and representatives from the Hebron department voiced concerns to Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell, who brought up the subject Tuesday at a county supervisors Public Safety Committee meeting.

Changes that have been pitched include streamlining radio announcements and only doing them on Sundays; airing road-closing alerts only for closings that exceed 12 hours; and getting rid of the Tuesday night equipment tests, which fewer than half of the fire companies participate in, Public Safety Director Bill Cook said.

“I don’t remember during those conversations anyone saying we had to do things different or do less,” Whitehall Supervisor George Armstrong said, of talks at the county leading up to consolidation.

Washington County Fire Coordinator Ray Rathbun said if departments in the county want a Tuesday test, they can call the county center and still get one.

But in the digital age, Rathbun said, he’s confident in the reliability of the communications equipment.

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