Fire dispatch console malfunctions _lowres

Photo provided by Rita Allen -- The St. Helena Parish fire department chiefs met with the sheriff's office March 30 during an emergency meeting to find a solution to faulty dispatch equipment that will require a replacement. Senator Bodi White also attended the meeting to see if he could assist. In front, from left, are, North Helena fire chief Jack Anderson, Montpelier fire chief Rusty Durand, Pine Grove fire chief Jerry Hagan, District 6 fire chief Tommy Strickland, Greensburg fire chief Donald Langston, Distrct #4 fire chief Charles Graves and Hillsdale fire chief Charlie New and back row, chief Michael Martin, White and Sheriff Nat Williams. Not pictured is Rita Allen.

The St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office dispatch console, which is used to dispatch emergency responders including fire and rescue, has malfunctioned since the renovations began at the jail last month, Sheriff Nat Williams said.

“The faulty equipment has been scheduled for an upgrade for the past few years,” Williams said. “When the renovations at the jail began, we discovered the equipment we use to dispatch fire and rescue workers would not work once it was moved.”

Due to the recent malfunctions, Williams said the upgrade will be rushed and hopefully completed soon. Willimas called an emergency meeting March 30.

The malfunctioning equipment is 10 years old and had problems in recent months, said St. Helena Parish Chief of Homeland Security, Rita Allen.

“At this time, the sheriff’s office and fire department’s do not have the funds for a quick fix, and we are having to use portable radios for communication,” said Allen.

The St. Helena fire chiefs met with the sheriff’s office to try to work around the issues at hand during the renovations, according to SHPSO Chief Michael Martin.

Martin said the department has begun emergency work to fix the system and will deploy additional units and take other precautions to compensate for the troubled system.

Although Martin said that fixing the system was an urgent matter, he said residents should still have faith in the parish’s emergency responders and 911 system. “Right now we still need residents to go through 911 on all fire and emergency dispatches and the sheriff’s office will notify the appropriate department for their response,” Martin said.

Until it’s clear that the system is working properly, Martin said the department ordered all units to use radio communications.

Senator Bodi White dropped in on the meeting while visiting the community for a school board meeting. White told parish leaders that he would help in any way that he can, Martin said.

“He asked us if we could do write-up on what kind of equipment we needed to move forward with this and, he may be able to find grant money or emergency money for the departments to ensure the parish has good emergency communication,” said Martin.

Martin said White will be working closely with the fire departments because it is their system that is not working properly.