Emergency responders unable to reach dispatch under new system

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Poplarville police officers and firefighters are having issues reaching 911 dispatchers since the countywide dispatch consolidation went into operation.

The consolidation combined the dispatch center for the Sheriff’s Department, which already dispatched for the city of Poplarville, and the dispatch center for the Picayune Police and Fire departments.

The consolidation also came with major technology upgrades.

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The centralized dispatch started operations in the first full week of January.

Poplarville Fire Chief Jason Bannister told the Poplarville Board of Aldermen during Tuesday’s regular meeting that his department has had major issues reaching dispatchers.

In one instance he called five times without being acknowledged on dispatch, said Bannister.

Bannister said he was told the problems were happening because dispatchers were still in training on the new equipment.

Poplarville Police Chief Danny Collier told the Board his officers have also had trouble reaching dispatchers. Collier said he’s spoken with CommSouth personnel and was told the issue might be due to the location of radio towers in relation to Poplarville or due to the police department’s low wattage portables. CommSouth personnel will be dropping off some higher wattage portables to see if that helps.

Collier said his understanding is that police officers and firefighters are priority in the dispatchers’ headsets.

Board member Anne Smith said officers and firefighters getting no answer from dispatch on their radios is unacceptable.

“We all agree with that,” said Board member Russell Miller.

Mayor Rossie Creel said he would contact the county IT Director to see if he can get more information on the issue.

The next Board meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. in the boardroom of City Hall.

Correction: Collier spoke with a CommSouth employee not a county employee about the radio communication issues.