Volunteer fire department pagers not working for 24 hours

Volunteer Fire Department Pagers Not Working for 24 Hours (Reporter: Amanda Brannon)

BELVOIR - The Belvoir Volunteer Fire Department lost communication with 911 dispatchers starting early Saturday morning.

Falkland Fire Department had the same problem.

"[If] no one knows about a call. You can't answer a call," Belvoir fire chief Tom Harris said.

The pager system was put in place for a reason. Volunteer fire departments don't have someone sitting at the main station all day waiting for the calls to come in. Therefore, the firefighters need personal pagers to get the dispatcher calls.

"[But] nobody was receiving the pages so we didn't know where the call was. [Pitt County Emergency Management] said they were aware of it and radio 1 was working on [fixing the problem]," Harris said.

Harris said there were three calls for help while the system was down. In two of those calls, there were only a handful of people that responded to man the hose and fight the fire.

"It's really bad. [When] you get two people to a structure fire then there's nothing you can do if anyone is inside. You gotta have a minimum of five people on hand to enter a structure," Harris said.

As a backup method, firefighters are sent a text message to their personal cell phone letting them know there's a fire in their area. However, what happens if they don't see the text?

"After you go to sleep at night you don't hear the ding on the text. The pager is not working. I got up Saturday morning [and] there was two calls showing up on my phone that I had not heard and turns out no one else had either," he said.

Despite not getting the page for the last call on Joshua Court, Harris said they did hear the call on their main system.

"That's just the luck of the draw. [There] could have been [a fire] fully involved. Could have been someone in it...And no one would have known except those few people who happened to hear their phone," Harris said.

Harris said they have had some pager issues in the past; however, in all the fifty-years he has been working as a firefighter, he said he has never seen the system go down for that long.

He believes a lack of communication is to blame.

NewsChannel 12 spoke with Pitt County Emergency Management about the problem. Noel Lee said the system is up and running now; however, they are still trying to figure out what caused the pagers to not work properly.

In all three of Belvoir's calls, no one was injured.

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