It’s been about three years since the county implemented its new computer-aided dispatch system, but the mapping capabilities still pose a problem.

In an effort to help the county’s nine Emergency Services District better navigate during emergencies, the Harrison County Commissioners Court plans to reach out to the East Texas Council of Governments to connect to the agency’s digital mapping system, for better accuracy.

“The commissioners court in Harrison County does all we can to make sure that the people are safe in this area,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner William Hatfield. “From the law enforcement officers with what we done to the CAD systems, to the radio communications, the antennae upgrades, to helping our EMS folks out … we want to make sure that these guys are able to go home at the end of their shift and are here to save as many lives and do what they can to make Harrison County a community that we’re all very proud to be part of.”

The court learned through a meeting, held this week with representatives and fire chiefs from the ESDs, that the current mapping system is in need of major redesign.

“If we were on ETCOG, it would be totally different,” informed Duane Nolen, fire chief for West Harrison Volunteer Fire Department, which is served by Emergency Services District No. 1.

The mapping system is currently connected to Texas Eastern 9-1-1 Network. The maps sometimes depict the precinct boundaries inaccurately.

“(With) some of our calls, the mapping will ping us and we’ll be (plumb) over here to the other side of (U.S. Highway) 59,” Nolen said, explaining the issues. “We’re on the very west end of Harrison County.”

The flawed maps have also caused dispatchers to misidentify the proper responding agency for a particular area.

“In fact, we were on two big wrecks (this week) and we got another call that actually ended up being over in Hallsville,” one fire official said. “They paged us for the one that was over in Hallsville.”

Commissioner Hatfield agreed something needs to be done, especially if it impedes response time.

“It’s scary because there’s a Shreveport Camden Road in Hallsville and there’s also one in Waskom and if a dispatcher makes a mistake and it’s a life threatening issue, then they’ll be sent to the wrong place,” he said of a hypothetical situation.

Nolen echoed his sentiments.

“We’ve got three Wendy Roads in my district and they get confused all the time,” said Nolen. “The (current) mapping helps none.”

Hatfield, who sits on ETCOG’s board, offered to look into the possibility of Harrison County connecting to ETCOG’s system while at his executive board meeting Thursday.

“I did follow-up,” Hatfield told the News Messenger Thursday.

He said representatives from ETCOG plan to meet with him and County Judge Chad Sims to further discuss the option, so that it could be placed on a future court agenda, for consideration.

“We’ll find out what we can do with that,” said Hatfield.

As another suggestion to improve accuracy, John Pritchard, fire chief for ESD No. 3 in Scottsville, recommended inputting the county road numbers into the dispatch system.

“Years ago when we were required to put numbers on our roads for the 911 system, we never switched over where we could use those numbers,” he said. “Every GPS I have found in the last five or six years does not use county roads.

“That’s something we may need to get with our dispatch to include that number; so if we use GPS of some sort we can utilize it. Because, right now, we have a problem with the CAD system with ours, as well,” Pritchard shared.

“We still insist on using the names,” the ESD No. 3 fire chief expounded. “That’s where you got the Shreve Camden, but they have different numbers. If they would include the numbering in the dispatch, it would alleviate some of that duplication.”

Nolen said he thinks all the ESDs would be willing to pitch in some funds if it meant better mapping software for the CAD system.

“I believe all of us would participate,” he said. “I know I would.”

The fire chief thanked the court for allowing the time for a great roundtable discussion. Judge Sims thanked them for their service.

“You all do a tremendous service for our communities. We want to hear from you, especially when you’re having problems that we can fix,” the county judge said.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jay Ebarb also praised the ESDs, sharing how valuable they are.

“We know that the taxpayers support y’all or they wouldn’t have voted them in,” he said of the ESDs, which are created through an election process.

The volunteer firemen said they love their job, which is more than just fire protection.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins said their service does not go unnoticed.

“We do appreciate you guys,” he told the group.”

“As a regular citizen, when something disastrous happen, we run from it; you guys run to it and that’s why we appreciate people like you,” said Timmins.

PULLQUOTE: “We’ve got three Wendy Roads in my district and they get confused all the time,” said {span}Duane Nolen, fire chief for West Harrison Volunteer Fire Department, which is served by Emergency Services District No. 1{/span}. “The (current) mapping helps none.”