E-911 Board discusses cell phone problems

Posted By | December 30, 2010 12:00 am

During the Dec. 21 meeting, members of White County Emergency Communications District Board of Directors discussed problems with cell phone reception in the county that could have serious repercussions for residents in emergency situations.
An apparent recent decline in coverage in various areas of the county prompted the Board to ask the Board attorney, Mike Kress to draft a letter to Verizon Wireless to formally inform them of the problem.
Director Wayne Sherrell told the Board of recent complaints from Verizon customers, as well as emergency responders, trying to reach emergency dispatchers but they were unable to make the calls or the signals were dropped during the emergency calls.
Chairman Jerry Denton explained White County Emergency Medical Services personnel use Verizon service and need to use those phones to make calls to hospitals and other emergency services.
“We’re getting to where we use our phones about as much as we do the radio because there’s a lot of stuff you can’t put over the radio,” said Board Member Jerry Fowler, who also works with WCEMS.
Sherrell stated, “But they’re showing bars and then can’t get through.”
“Has it been better coverage in the past and it’s just not as good a coverage as it used to be,” asked Kress.
“Well you’re starting to lose a lot of spots,” answered Fowler. “Service is dropping for some reason.”
He explained there are some areas where coverage has always been non-existent while other areas, which had coverage before, do not have coverage or the coverage is sporadic.
“In the southern part of the county, it’s not as good as it was six months ago,” said Denton. “I was told that there is an object that’s obstructing the transmission. That’s what I was told out of their engineering office in Arkansas. My question to them was who has this movable object because, at times, the reception is really good and then, at the snap of your finger, you don’t have coverage.”
Board Member Jerry Cole told the Board he had complained to Verizon about coverage, which he said was non-existent in the area south of Highway 70 west, approximately eight miles out of town and extending to DeKalb County.
He said he was told that area is a non-coverage area, and a network extender would remedy the problem at his home.
“I’ve got a phone at home,” stated Cole. “I don’t need it there. I need it on the road.”
Sherrell said this issue is about the safety of the people residing and traveling through White County.
Denny Wayne Robinson pointed out this issue is neither in the control nor purview of the E-911 Board.
Denton stated the reason for sending a letter is to “officially inform them that this Board is aware and has had some instances with emergency calls that didn’t make it through because of their service.”
He said the intent is not to create leverage to force Verizon or any cell service provider to make any improvements.
Fowler pointed out this is a way to acknowledge and document the problem so potential liability or blame issues are directed at the party responsible and not the White County Emergency Communications District.

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