FISHERS, Ind. — The father of a man who died three years is pushing state lawmakers to figure out an overhaul of a flaw that he found when it comes to counties responding to emergency situations.
George West found the flaw when his adult son, Matt West, died of an undiagnosed heart condition while staying at a friend’s house near the Hamilton County-Marion County border.
“On the way (to the house) we passed a fire station at 86th and Fall Creek,” West told WISH-TV. “I remember passing that fire station and thanking God that it was so close.”
But, that fire station, Indianapolis Fire Station 28, was not called because it was just across the county line in Marion County. The house Matt West was at was in Hamilton County, thus his friend’s 911 call went to a Hamilton County dispatch center, who then relayed the run to the nearest available Hamilton County fire station three miles away. Much further away than the Indianapolis fire station.
“I just couldn’t understand why the one furthest away responded when there was one so close,” West said. “That one that was closest was available at that time, but never called. All of us just couldn’t understand why.”
“It happens pretty much every day in every 911 center,” said Kevin Wethington, director of Public Safety Communications for Indianapolis and Marion County.
He said the problem lies in the fact that some emergency response systems, known as “CAD systems”, in one county may not be the same as CAD systems in another county. Those different CAD systems do not mesh well with other CAD systems. Wethington said the companies that make these different CAD systems are competitors and are not keen on sharing proprietary information.
Cost also plays a factor because more urban counties, like Marion County, have more money to play with in buying state-of-the-art CAD systems. Counties with lesser funds may not be able to afford the same systems, which can make the disparity between inter-county communications even worse.
“Based on geographical information, a CAD can determine the closest unit and recommend it for the best response,” said Fishers Fire Chief Steve Orusa in a hearing before state lawmakers earlier this year. “But, the problem lies where a situation needing a response is near a county line.”
Orusa said a first responder agency across the county line might be geographically closer to the situation, but will not get the call because of the difference in CAD systems.
West is hoping a committee formed to deep dive into the issue during the last legislative session will come back with some answers to the problem.