GLENMOOR - Fire officials in St. Clair Township are asking residents to use caution in dialing 911 on their cell phones in the event of a fire emergency, due to problems with routing such calls.
Calcutta fire Chief Scott Smith and Glenmoor Chief Matt Smith and deputy Chief Bill Bennett joined forces at the Glenmoor station Thursday night to issue a request that residents program the departments' emergency numbers into their cell phones rather than depend on dialing 911.
They said making emergency calls to 911 in this area could result in delays because the calls often go to dispatchers in other areas, such as Hancock County in West Virginia, Beaver County in Pennsylvania or even as far as Cleveland.
"Someone in Cleveland is not going to know where St. Clair Township is," Matt Smith pointed out.
An enhanced county-wide 911 system that should eliminate the problem is supposed to be implemented at some point, they said.
Scott Smith said that, from county fire chief meetings, he gathers most departments are experiencing some type of problem with the 911 system, and in St. Clair Township, cell phone calls going awry is nothing new.
It came to light again over the weekend when a resident's truck caught fire at his home and it took 20 minutes for the fire department to receive notification.
A cell phone call from a neighbor reportedly went through another county but when 10 minutes passed and no fire department arrived, the owner also called 911 on his cell phone, with Bennett saying, "We don't know where it went."
A landline call was made to the city police department's regular phone number and the dispatcher notified the fire department's dispatcher. Calcutta firefighters arrived on the scene in six minutes and Glenmoor's in seven minutes after finally being notified.
The resident whose truck was on fire has reportedly advised fire officials it was 20 minutes after the first call before he heard the fire siren activated, according to Matt Smith, who said, "We're investigating what happened. Any delay can mean the difference between life and death to one of our citizens or to our firefighters."
"We can't do anything until we get the call," Scott Smith stressed.
Bennett added, "There are still a lot of people who think if they dial 911, that the call is going to the fire department. If you dial 911 (on a cell phone in the St. Clair area), it may hit the East Liverpool police department, but you can't assume that."
Scott Smith said, while they don't want to discourage anyone from dialing 911 in an emergency if they don't have the fire departments' emergency numbers handy, he said, "The call will get to us quicker if you dial our emergency numbers."
They encouraged residents to program the numbers into their cell phones, just in case.
For Calcutta, that number is 330-386-5311 and for Glenmoor it is 330-385-5627, each of which will ring directly into the dispatch center at North Star Critical Care.