Area volunteer fire departments struggle with City of Lawton’s new technology

Area volunteer fire departments struggle with COL's technology

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - A new technology implemented by the City of Lawton is causing communication issues according to area volunteer fire departments.

The City of Lawton Emergency Communications Center began implementing a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system last December. The CAD is used by emergency responders in Comanche County.

Twelve volunteer fire departments in the area use an app called IamResponding that should send alerts to firefighters and allow them to send messages back.

Tom Myers is the Chief for Pecan Creek Volunteer Fire Department and said the old system worked perfectly fine. Now, connectivity issues prevent it from functioning the way it’s supposed to.

“With the IamResponding, you have a written record of what it going on and also through IamResponding send notifications that you will respond or that you’re out of service or whatever your status is at the time,” he said.

All emergency calls to volunteer fire departments are still being dispatched through radios.

“We have to rely strictly on the VHF radios and on pagers to receive our signal,” he said. “Sometimes when we do receive a signal, communication’s bad and we do not really getting the proper incident details, so we may miss an address, we may miss what the incident is about.”

In a statement, the City of Lawton said in part, the “Information Technology Services team is assisting a vendor to remedy” the issue. They say “it’s a part of the city’s Digital Transformation efforts and is a topmost priority.”

But the local volunteer fire departments have been waiting for the technology to be fixed for almost two months.

With the system not working properly, the volunteer fire departments have to monitor radios and pagers constantly.

“Now, we get dispatch paged out,” he said, “we have the person or persons that are responding send out a mass text to all of our responders telling them what the incident is, where we have to go. We have no way of knowing who is coming to the incident, who’s going to be assembled at the station or anything.”

Myers said the department pays $200 a month for the technology, so they’re hoping it’s fixed quickly.

“Hopefully, the lines of communication will be opened and the system can be modified or updated to where IamResponding can be notified and all the responders in the county will be able to get notified,” he said, “not only by VHF and by pagers but also through IamResponding.”

One volunteer firefighter said he felt if it was affecting the Lawton Fire Department, it would have already been taken care of.

Another Chief of a volunteer fire department said “IamResponding is vital technology for all the departments that utilize it. Not only for notification of incidents but also for mapping and incident pre-planning. Most of us run on very limited funding throughout the year and when it’s not functioning properly at the fault of the City, it wastes our funding.”

The City of Lawton said the timeline on connectivity repair regarding IamResponding is unknown as of Wednesday, but they’ve requested it be complete no later than Jan. 29.

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