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Emergency Services and IT once again separate departments

Leonardtown, MD- On Tuesday, Nov. 14 the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners passed a motion to once again divide the department of Emergency Services and Technology (ES&T).

This is a huge victory for the county’s first responders who have been voicing concerns about how the department of ES&T has been managed.

TheBayNet.com has been following this debate over the past several weeks and has reported on the first responder’s concerns stemming from an emergency call on Oct. 24 in which the county’s emergency radio system was not working properly. Fire and rescue chiefs were not alerted to the fact the system was down and they were not prepared to respond to emergency calls through other communication methods.

After this incident, an email was sent to all of the fire and EMS chiefs within the county. Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Shawn Davidson told TheBayNet.com there is a standing policy in place by management of the Emergency Communication Division to the effects of—“Don’t tell the volunteer’s the radios are down.”

Sources close to the story told TheBayNet.com that dispatchers had their jobs threatened if they did alert the volunteers about system failures. Our sources also told us the dispatchers who were on duty the morning of Oct. 24 were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements before making statements about the issues with the system to management.

Many first responders voiced concerns about the director of ES&T, Bob Kelly. Kelly was the director of the IT (Information Technology) department when it was merged with Emergency Services. Kelly was then named the director for the combined department.

That decision led to a number of complaints over the past few years. Shawn Davidson, chief of the Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad has been very vocal about his concerns. “The person who is ultimately is in charge of emergency services in St. Mary’s County knows nothing about emergency services. We don’t have things in place that we should have in place. I have serious concerns about how emergency services is being operated.” The person Davidson was referring to was Kelly.

Rob Wahrenbrock, chief of Bay District Volunteer Fire Department agreed, “It comes down to Public Safety 101. There are very basic things that could have been done to prevent this and had the county done that, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.”

Since the announcement about the department separation, Wahrenbrock said he is happy with the decision. “I’m very pleased to see steps being taken to correct the system. We’re looking forward to working with the interim director to improve the system and to serve the community.”

The interim director is Steve Walker, who was serving as the deputy director of ES&T. Wahrenbrock said, “He’s a great guy and he’s given 100-percent.”

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

Read the previous article here

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