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Halliday responders struggle with state radio

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MANNING — Think “Can you hear me now?” but in a much more serious situation.

Emergency responders in low-lying Halliday are struggling to connect on the radio — whether to tell each other who is responding to what, or even for two ambulances on the way to the same emergency to communicate.

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Three Halliday responders visited with Dunn County commissioners at their meeting Wednesday to discuss how to tackle the problem.

County emergency manager Denise Brew will reach out to state radio representatives to invite them to see the problems and frustration right “on the ground” in Dunn County. At the meeting, all emergency responders — whether with a fire or ambulance department — could discuss what they are experiencing.

“It basically boils down to our coverage,” Halliday Fire Chief Joey Bogers said after the meeting.

“I think they need to come out and actually experience … what’s going on,” he told commissioners.

Whether it’s bad cell service, malfunctioning e-Pagers or poor radio coverage, responders and dispatchers are struggling to connect when an emergency is occurring, when every minute matters.

Dunn County already has notoriously bad cellphone service.

“The reception is that bad,” Halliday responder Jim Schaper said.

Said fellow responder Cody Fry, “It’s gotta get better.”

The problems began in February, when Dunn, like other counties, switched from using Stark County-based radio to state radio, after Stark County became overwhelmed with the increased calls it was handling because of the oil boom.

The inevitable was on everyone’s minds Wednesday — an underlying tone was worry about when there’s a call that isn’t heard by anyone, so no one responds.

“I don’t want to be the one laying out in a snowbank and they can’t hear it,” said Commissioner Bob Kleeman, who invited the Halliday responders to speak at the meeting.

Something similar came close to happening New Year’s Eve, when communications of an incident in Twin Buttes only reached two people, and Killdeer had to help respond in the end.

Brew told commissioners, “I don’t want to be the 911 coordinator when we miss something.”

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