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Wagoner County E-911 concerns

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Some Wagoner County residents are wondering when they call 911, who will come help? And how long will they have to wait?

The county is enhancing it's 911 system, changing from old postal routes to street addresses, so firefighters know where to go. But as reporter News on 6 Heather Lewin explains, a few cases of confusion have emergency responders asking for a better way to dispatch help.

Rolling Hills is just one of more than a half dozen rural fire departments in Wagoner County and the best way to reach them "isn't" by calling 911. Rolling Hills Fire dispatcher Traci Fox: "People have to call our emergency phone number if they want to get directly to us. People who move into the neighborhood may not know that and if they have an emergency they will assume to call 911."

If residents do call, they'll still get help, but their information is taken first in Tulsa. "Then Tulsa takes what they believe to be the department that needs to respond to that area and calls that fire department."

Fox says dispatchers in another city, may not be as familiar with the streets of her small town and unintentionally send a crew that's farther away. "If we don't hear about it and it's right up the street, you can imagine that slows down the response time for us to get there."

In the town of Wagoner, 911 calls go to one of three dispatch centers, usually the local police. The fire chief says he's okay with how the calls come in, it's just a matter of marking clear boundaries of which department should respond where.

Someone living on the edge of Wagoner could be just a few miles from the fire department but listed outside the fire district. So if they called 911, the call might go to Coweta or another area department, putting the first responders an extra 5 or 10 minutes away. Wagoner Fire Chief Kelly Grooms: “you have to determine what area you serve, what house is served by your fire department and that's part of the problem. We don't have set boundaries so, it's hard to put an address in for a house and say which department when you're not for sure which fire department should be responding."

Officials are considering setting up one central dispatch in the Wagoner County Sheriff's Office, something county commissioners I spoke to support and will take up at a special meeting in about 2 weeks.

In the meantime, firefighters say it's not that 911 calls aren't being answered, most departments have a mutual aid policy, so if one gets a call the others go and assist. It's just that how they responded is determined by who gets the call first and of course they want that to be the closest station to the emergency.
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