BLACK POND - When a first responder is dispatched, one of the most vital items is information. An address is imperative for those first responders, whether fire, police or medical. Unfortunately, for those not familiar with the area, be it dispatch or the responder, problems arise when the address cannot be located. One major problem with this is the stealing of county road signs.
The lack of county road signs in the Black Pond area, along with the condition of County Road 8, were two major discussions held at the community meeting at the fire department Tuesday, July 21, the second meeting this year. The meetings are called for the purpose of giving the community a voice and to raise any concerns.
“We still have some issues with road signs,” Fire Chief Terry Tidwell mentioned. Dawn Carroll, board member, added she has received new maps from Tim Webb, executive director at the Winston County E-911 office.
“I called Tim, and he has left two brand new 9-1-1 maps,” Carroll said.
“He’s in the process now of making map books,” Tidwell added. “You can take a map book and find (places elsewhere in the county). You get down here on the lake, there aren’t any road signs or anything else you can go by.”
Tidwell mentioned he has complained about not having road signs in the area, causing problems with first responders trying to locate a residence.
“The county is now capable of making road signs,” Tidwell continued, mentioning there is a road in the area where, when giving directions, the only identification is a light pole.
“It’s the only directions we had,” Tidwell said concerning the night of a house fire on this particular road.
Signs are now made by the county in the sign shop on County Road 32 in Double Springs, according to County Engineer James Glasgow.
“We have to design them,” Glasgow said. “There is computer software in our sign shop, with templates for whatever size sign they are. We have a plotter that cuts the sign material, and it will cut the letters and numbers out.”
Funds to make the signs come from the E-911 center, while the county makes and installs them and bills 9-1-1, usually quarterly.
“It’s cheaper than buying from a sign company,” Glasgow added. “It’s quicker.”
A 9-1-1 county road sign can be made in roughly 20 minutes. Of course, signs are replaced as noticed, but the road department is seeking the public’s help in notifying them of where the missing signs are.
“We do rely on the public’s involvement in letting us know,” Glasgow said. “They are out there. We have 27 employees, including our office staff and the shop. There is only so much we can see. Let us know, and we will get them made.”
“At one time, we bought them all from a third-party contractor,” Webb explained. “The road department bought a machine a few years ago and now have the capability to make their own signs, as far as county road signs.” Webb said it was a good idea to also have house numbers displayed where emergency responders can find them.
“A lot of times, we may have an ambulance crew that’s not the regular crew that’s familiar with Winston County,” Webb continued. “While they have the mapping, it would make it much easier if you had your address posted, as far as response time.”
While the county cannot legally make signs for private individuals, there are some local companies who can do that, such as the Arley Fire Department.
Just like house numbers being displayed, the county is maintaining the signs for the roads for the same reason: faster response time for first responders.
“Seconds save lives, and a little bit of delay getting there could mean the difference,” Webb said.
The large wall maps maintained by the E-911 center are accurate according to Webb, though he is still working on the latest map book.
“In the next few months, we should have an updated book,” he said, mentioning most updates to the map books are normally just in new lake subdivisions.
Books are available at the E-911 office for $40 and contain all sections of the county with accurate and current road names. The E-911 office supplies books to all police, fire and medical personnel.
Operators in the E-911 office are trained 160 hours before answering a call on their own. They are trained through the National Academy of Medical Emergency Dispatch and certified in Emergency Medical Dispatch.
“We’re dealing with people’s lives,” Webb said. “You want somebody who is cool, calm, collected, well-trained and can handle the situation.”
The Winston County E-911 office has the most updated system there is, according to Webb. The system can handle both analog and digital signals and is updated to Zetron Max Dispatch, a console using software to bring information all into one place for dispatchers. There is also a contingency plan in case of a fiber optic cut and part of the county is isolated.
One plan is a system of wireless technology called MEVO, while another is to re-route calls to some of the surrounding counties.
“They can get the call for us and radio it here to dispatch,” Webb explained. “There is a several point backup system.”
Something new this year the E-911 office has is the RapidSOS deployment, using the GPS coordinates of the user’s smart phone, in some situations, to send data while on a 9-1-1 call. RapidSOS sends coordinates in remote areas where there is a lack of cell phone signal.
“Any time there is some new technology we can use to help provide a better service, we jump on top of it,” Webb said.
Also at the Black Pond community meeting, it was learned the biggest complaint from area residents is the condition of County Road 8, which has recently been chip sealed. Some residents are claiming the road has already broken up in places.
“Right after they left, you could still see dirt,” Tidwell said. “I’ve heard (the road crew) were coming back.”
One resident mentioned she spoke with Glasgow who mentioned the road crew were supposed to be back within a month after it was completed.
“It is not fully complete,” Glasgow said. “There is a spot they will have to repair, with a chip seal on top of it as well. There is a 1,200 foot section near the beginning that is really rough.” Once this section is fixed, striping is painted and pavement markers are placed in the centerline. At this point, the road will be complete. The current chip seal layer is the final layer. It will not have a hot mix asphalt layer.
Cost of the project was $1,769,684.28. It was constructed by Blount Construction Company, of Marietta, Geo.
“They ground up the road, mixed cement in the base while reconstructing it and then chip sealed it,” Glasgow explained. As a rough estimate, it would have cost an additional $800,000 to have the hot mix asphalt layer added.
“We appreciate the public’s patience with the County Road 8 job,” Glasgow said. “We hope to wrap it up soon.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.