Motorola addressing issues with new paging system for emergency responders

Updated: Apr. 19, 2017 at 6:55 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The new paging system volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel around Horry County use to get dispatched has been having issues, so now it's being worked on.

"They seem to work better when they're in their chargers than they were on the hips, so they're looking at now what the reasons are," Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Alvin Payne said. "Is it a toning issue or is it a programming issue with the pagers? It could be a multitude of different things."

Horry County Fire Rescue personnel received a letter Tuesday instructing everyone to switch back to the old pagers by 10 a.m. Wednesday. Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson for Horry County, said there have been issues with the new pagers while they've been in a testing phase.

She said both the old and new pagers were on for the past two weeks sending out information.

According to Bourcier, recipients weren't always able to read what they received on the new pagers. They receive what look like text messages from dispatch with information about a call.

"The older pagers actually are an audio pager," Payne said. "The new pagers are an alphanumeric pager, where it actually tones you and you have to read the location and type of call."

The second part of Horry County's switchover to a digital radio system for all emergency response personnel in the county that happened two weeks ago involved updating the pager system as well.

Certain emergency responders, such as HCFR volunteer firefighters and MBFD emergency medical technicians, use their pagers to get dispatched.

Myrtle Beach Fire has switched its pagers back to the older ones while the issues get sorted out. Payne said the department uses them for ambulance dispatch only.

Crews didn't get dispatched through the new pagers twice that Payne said he knows of. He added that firefighters listen to the radios and dispatch also will send out the signal again if first responders don't respond in a minute and a half.

"We only had a couple of instances where we didn't get dispatched where it didn't work," Payne said, adding that response times weren't affected. "I don't know of any issues we had on the type of calls we ran."

Now, Motorola is working on fixing the issues with the new paging system, according to Bourcier. She said the county hasn't been told when that process will be complete.

"I think what they're doing now, really, is probably the most advantageous for the whole county because it ensures everybody does get that quick response," Payne said.

Bourcier said no significant delays were reported for Horry County Fire Rescue responses.

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