County 911 paging system remains limited, devices ordered

David Weissman
York Dispatch

York County 911 dispatchers have been limited in their ability to page fire and EMS officials since Saturday, July 29, due to software reverting back to the pre-Y2K era.

The issue stems from a firmware malfunction on communications equipment that has prevented the GPS signal from reaching the satellite that sends pages to fire and EMS personnel.

The firmware had a lifespan of 19½ years that began Dec. 14, 1997, and on Saturday, the firmware reset to that date.

Scott Keener, 911 center project manager, explained that because the equipment that firmware interacts with only dates back to 2001, it did not recognize Dec. 14, 1997, as a valid date, and this led to the outage.

More:York County 911 paging system returns in limited capacity

The county was unaware of the firmware's limitations as it was not notified by the device's manufacturer, according to county spokesman Mark Walters.

Manufacturer: The county had previously declined to name the manufacturer, but county administrator Mark Derr revealed Wednesday, Aug. 2, that the manufacturer is California-based Trimble.

An employee talks with a co-worker at the York County 911 Center Monday, July 31, 2017. County spokesman Mark Walters and lead training supervisor Roxie Tate talked with the media Monday, Feb. 26 regarding recent problems with the center's paging system. Bill Kalina photo

Derr explained that Trimble wouldn't necessarily know York County 911 had its equipment because it was purchased through a third-party vendor. Dauphin County 911 also had Trimble's firmware and dealt with the same issues.

Keener said the county did not have a working relationship with Trimble because, up to this point, the devices had been extremely reliable.

A spokeswoman for Trimble did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

The county has ordered replacement equipment, also from Trimble, for an estimated cost of $23,000, though that funding hasn't been officially approved by county commissioners yet, according to Derr.

York County 911 has already received seven of those devices and placed them in towers throughout the county to offer limited capability for the paging system, Keener said. The department is waiting on 11 more devices, though it doesn't know when it will receive them, he added.

The devices could soon be ruled redundant as the county's new 911 radio system is set to be fully implemented by December, Keener said.

More:York County approves borrowing up to $32 million

The county has been in the process of shifting from its current T-band frequency to the 700 MHz frequency, per federal mandate.

He said York County 911 officials will be conducting a thorough review to potentially make cost-saving cuts of redundancies and ensure the paging system avoids a similar issue in the future.

Volunteers: Chad Deardoff, York City fire chief, spoke during the county commissioners meeting Wednesday, Aug. 2, explaining that the public wasn't at risk because of the paging issues.

Roxie Tate, lead training supervisor for the 911 center, said all fire and EMS units were advised to staff their radio transmission stations, and all dispatches since the issue first began have been answered in a timely manner.

Sophia Deardorff, 4, right, touches the face of her father, York City Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorf, as they talk before the 140th annual York City Firefighter's Memorial Service at St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church in York City, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Deardorff said the issue has been a particular burden on volunteer fire companies, which don't normally staff their stations 24/7.

"Our first responders really stepped up," he said.

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes thanked all of the firefighters, EMS personnel and dispatchers and their family members for their patience and hard work in dealing with the paging system issue.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.