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Waiting for 911

December 31, 1998|By DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Fulton County is one of just four in Pennsylvania without 911 service, but that should change this spring when a new system goes into operation.

There have been some delays, but Fulton County Commissioner Daniel Swain said Tuesday he expects the system to be up and running by May.

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Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman Marko Bourne said on Tuesday that only a few rural counties, like Fulton, do not have countywide systems. A small portion of the county in the 814 area code now has 911 service provided by Bedford County, Bourne said.

Fulton County won't do its own dispatching. The county signed an agreement last year with Cumberland County to provide 911 service, according to Lynn Joyce, who became the county's 911 coordinator this fall.

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A county native and Shippensburg University graduate, Joyce was hired in 1997 to help with the process of mapping and addressing the county.

Among a stack of streets signs in the county's new Emergency Operations Center was the imaginatively named Wasamud Lane.

With an enhanced 911 system, every unnamed road and lane in the county has to be named, Joyce said.

Another of her favorites: Buck-In-Rut Lane.

"I couldn't function the rest of the day after I saw that," she said on Wednesday.

Joyce said those were among the private roads where the residents got to pick the name. "The other roads in the county were named by the townships" or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, she said.

All roads now have been named, and maps are in the hands of police, fire and ambulance services, she said.

Early this year, county officials said they hoped the 911 system would be functioning by January.

"It just always takes longer than you think on these things," Swain said.

"Much of it has to do with the mapping and addresses," Joyce said.

She said the process is about 75 percent complete. County residents who had Mercersburg addresses have received new ones, as have residents in the Burnt Cabins and Fort Littleton areas, Joyce said.

Regional post office approval is pending for new addresses in the McConnellsburg, Warfordsburg and Hustontown areas, she said.

Another delay was caused by a change in ownership of a tower site on Tuscarora Mountain where the county needs to install radio equipment for the system, Joyce said.

Swain said the county will still have a no-cost lease at the tower, but it must put up its own shelter for the equipment.

To pay for the system, the county's 7,000 telephone customers are being charged $1.50 a line per month, according to Joyce.

While 911 service is still a few months off, the new Emergency Operations Center is set to open on Tuesday. Joyce said it is moving from a courthouse annex to the basement of the Neighborhood Service Center at 116 W. Market St.

On Wednesday, James Kester, the communications officer for the Central Area of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, was installing an emergency management satellite system at the new center.

"It provides for real-time management of an emergency," Kester said.

The system allows emergency personnel in any county to know the status of a disaster anywhere in the state and be able to summon or provide appropriate assistance.

The center will also be the site of a backup 911 system, Joyce said. If there is a technical problem during an emergency that interrupts 911 communications between Fulton and Cumberland counties, help will still be just three digits away for county residents, she said.

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