Thursday, November 4, 2010

Franklin County Communications Center Part 1

I am out of major incidents for this date so this is my space filler for today. A few weeks ago a couple of people alluded to the communications center in the Junior’s fire hall. I id not have the answers but found this printed in the 1989 CVVFA convention book. It was compiled by John E. Emmons and is reprinted in its entirety today and tomorrow.

In 1955 the Borough of Chambersburg saw a need for some type of communications between the apparatus on the scene of an emergency and a central dispatch center that was manned 24 hours per day. At this time the Borough purchased 10 single channel mobile radios and 5 portables for use by the fire department. The base station was placed in police headquarters where it was answered by the on duty officers, who would also call additional apparatus if needed. Then in 1957 after several confrontations with the police and fire department, a central dispatch center was established at the Junior Hose and Truck Company in Chambersburg, where a countywide fire phone was installed.

This center was manned by paid apparatus drivers from the Chambersburg Fire Department and volunteers from the Juniors. Even after this base was installed and operational most emergency calls still went to the individual fire stations.

In 1968 several county wide fire department officers, State Police, the sheriff and township supervisors felt that a central county wide communications center was needed in Franklin County. At this time negotiations were started with the County Commissioners and in January 1970 the Communications Center, under the direction of Crawford Wiestling went on line. The center was operational 24 hours per day, with three dispatchers working eight-hour shifts. The center had a two-channel low band radio for the 16 county fire companies, and a single channel low band radio for the 5 police departments. This system operated off of a 50-foot tower, which was located behind the courthouse, and after proving very ineffective was moved atop a water tank on Reservoir Hill in Chambersburg.

In 1970 after funding was secured from the county commissioners, the Penna. Civil Defense Agency, land was donated by a local businessman and a 60 foot tower was installed on the North mountain, eight miles north west of town. Even though there were still some spots in the county inaccessible to communications, this tower was a great advancement for the county. Also at this time due to a significant increase in radio traffic, a second channel was installed for the fire service, which was used for fire ground communications.

The summer of 1971 saw Tom Hawthorne take over the reins as the Civil Defense Director for Franklin County. As with the proceeding 3 years the next 4 years saw the communications center expand and improve to provide better service to the citizens of Franklin County. Due to several problems with communications in the county, a new 00 foot tower was installed on the north mountain, and at the same time radios were placed in the emergency rooms of both Chambersburg and Waynesboro Hospitals, for communications with incoming ambulances.

With the inception of the air medical service in Vietnam, it was decided that heliports were needed at the hospitals. Mr. Hawthorne had all materials donated by local businessmen, and the labor donated by C. D, 1ST Battalion, 103rd Armor Division of the Penna. National Guard, and the Mechanics Steam Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1 of Waynesboro. The National Guard constructed one for the Chambersburg Hospital and the Mechanics constructed one for the Waynesboro Hospital. At this time the air service was provided by the Pa. State Police based in Harrisburg. Also in the summer of 1971 the 15 townships in Franklin County were linked to the Communications Center via the airwaves, which over the last 18 years has proved to be a very valuable asset many times over.

To be continued.

1 comment:

Sparky said...

Great history lesson. Keep it coming....