New Castle News

February 22, 2013

Dispatch error delays firefighters

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Fortunately, it turned out to be a minor incident and not a fire that caused major damage or any injury.

Nonetheless, Brian Melcer, Lawrence County’s public safety director, is taking a dispatching error seriously.

At 4:55 p.m. Tuesday, the county’s 911 center dispatched firefighters to what was reported to be a residential fire at 115 Johns Lane in North Beaver Township.

However, there was no fire at that location.

It was the correct street number, but the call was in Franklin Township, Beaver County.

So when the mistake was discovered, firefighters were dispatched to a residence at 115 Johns Lane in Franklin Township where a furnace motor on a trailer had burned. The fire had been extinguished by the time crews arrived, according to Ellwood City Fire Chief Rick Myers.

 Multiple departments were called out to the North Beaver site.

Melcer said the 911 call was made from a cell phone. He explained that when a 911 call is made with a cell phone, the center receives either the location of the cell phone tower or the caller.

“In this case, we didn’t get the location of the (cell phone),” Melcer said.

He speculates the center probably received only the location of the tower and that the caller was probably far from the tower.

“Our (dispatcher) did not handle the call properly. He should have been able to better interrogate the caller to get the location.”

Melcer said after firefighters discovered there was no fire at the North Beaver Township location, the dispatcher called the person who had contacted 911 and obtained more information.

Melcer said disciplinary action would be taken against the dispatcher. He said he could not comment on the disciplinary action because it’s a personnel matter.