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Franklin County EMS director dies

December 03, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- From Three Mile Island and the first days of 911 service through the changes brought about by the 9/11 attacks, Emergency Services Director Jerry Flasher was an integral part of the public safety system.

Flasher, 52, of Chambersburg, died Wednesday morning after an illness of several months.

"He's seen a lot and absolutely done a lot. He's an icon of public safety in Franklin County," said County Communications Coordinator Bryan Stevenson, who worked with Flasher for more than 20 years. "Hopefully, we can continue what he started."

Flasher was hired as a dispatcher by the county in 1979, the same year as the partial meltdown of one of the nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, Pa. Flasher became chief dispatcher in 1980, assistant director of Emergency Services in 1986, director of communications in 1988 and director of Emergency Services in 1998.

Susan Dutko has served as acting director of Emergency Services in recent months, County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said.

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In the past few years, Flasher was in charge of two major projects, an upgrade of the public safety radio system costing in excess of $5 million and preparing the 911 Emergency Communications Center to be moved from the basement of the courthouse to a facility in the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

Flasher was there when the county started basic 911 service in the 1980s and for subsequent enhancements of the system, Stevenson said. Flasher also was involved in the evolution of the South Central Pennsylvania Counter Terrorism Task Force in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

County Planning Director Phil Tarquino, who was the Emergency Services director before Flasher, said Flasher also was important to the county's hazardous materials planning and response program begun in the early 1990s.

"He wanted to teach people what he had learned" to make the county's Department of Emergency Services more effective, Stevenson said.

"I knew Jerry long before I was county commissioner, probably more than 25 years," County Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

That goes back to a time when someone reporting an emergency had to dial different dispatch centers in different parts of the county, he said.

"He was the most knowledgeable person about emergency communications this county ever had," Thomas said. "He oversaw a smooth transition from multiple dispatch centers for the county to single dispatch."

"He had a lot of friends in emergency services," Thomas said.

A viewing will be Thursday, Dec. 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Thomas Geisel Funeral Home, 333 Falling Spring Road, Chambersburg. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the South Mountain Bible Church, 11275 South Mountain Road.

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