Spotty communication is one challenge facing Alcona County fire departments. One chief said his firefighters are missing 25 percent of their emergency pages. And in Curtis Township, firefighters can hear calls for the Flint area better than calls for emergencies in their own backyards.
But a solution is being worked on.
"My problem is on almost any given day I hear Genesee County better than I hear Alcona County," Curtis Township Fire Chief Jack Roberts said. "The whole county has that problem."
In Hubbard Lake, South Shore Fire Chief Carl Smith estimated that 25 percent of emergency pages fail to reach his department. Most are for medical emergency calls.
"It makes you feel bad because safety is an issue," he said. "It could make the difference between saving a life or not."
Earlier in the week, at a meeting of the Alcona County Fire Chiefs Association in Barton City, it was reported that only seven firefighters responded to a structure fire in Greenbush. In Curran, only two firefighters were available for an emergency call there.
But it turns out it wasn't because of a lack of help, although numerous fire chiefs said they needed more volunteers.
"What Greenbush talked about was that there was a structure fire, but only seven showed up," Mikado Fire Chief Wayne Odell, who attended the meeting, said. "That's because the rest didn't get the page."
Jeff Brackett, director of Alcona County's 911 Central Dispatch, said the communications problems have been an issue for about four months.
The federal government cut the bandwidth in half for emergency services, and that has caused issues with static, Brackett said. So the county hired a company to do a radio study, "and we are following through on their recommendations, such as increasing the number of antennas on a tower."
"That should increase range and reception, and pager power," he said.
Meanwhile, other firefighters are paged out until enough emergency personnel are on scene to respond to an emergency, he said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.