Saturday, April 10, 1999

Storm could spur support for tax levy

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The storm that devastated parts of Hamilton County provided what Blue Ash Police Chief Mike Allen called a prime example of why voters need to pass Issue 3 in May.

        Issue 3 is a countywide proposal that would raise $63.7 million over four years to replace the county communications system that police and fire officials describe as antiquated and dangerous.

        Supporters of the levy hope that — as tragic as the storm was — it will help efforts to pass the levy voters have rejected twice before.

        “I think it will help and maybe wake some people up,” said Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin.

        The county's communications system doesn't allow police officers and firefighters from different departments to communicate with each other.

        It also leads to overloaded radio frequencies that threaten the entire county, said Bill Hinkle, director of Hamilton County's communications center.

        “When you have something like this, we become inundated with 911 telephone calls from residents and radio transmissions from law enforcement in the field,” he said. “Radio traffic is so congested, it's a mess.”

        But it's not just a mess for residents in the heart of the disaster area.

        “All this radio time affected our ability to respond to other emergencies,” he said.

        That means it took more time to dispatch fire trucks and ambulances throughout the county, he said.

        To respond to the storm more effectively, the communications center used a frequency that police typically use to check warrants and run license plate checks.

        “We simply had to use it,” Mr. Hinkle said. “We had no choice.”

        If the new radio system were in place, all of the police and fire units responding to the storm could use one “talk group,” making it easier for them to communicate and freeing up other radio frequencies for other emergencies, he said.

        Colerain Township Fire Chief Bruce Smith, who was stationed at Montgomery and Kemper roads Friday morning, said he watched firefighters and police officers retrace each other's steps because they couldn't communicate effectively.

        In a situation where every minute counts, such duplication can be dangerous, he said.

        It wasn't until around 9 a.m. — more than three hours after the storm hit — that he finally felt comfortable that police and fire units at the scene knew where the problems were and had them under control.

        “When you have a disaster like that, you're going to have chaos for a while,” he acknowledged. “Our job is to get the chaos under control a little better.”

        Enquirer reporters Bernie Mixon and Tanya Albert contributed.


Hope emerges from the rubble
Sirens worked, but some slept through
Families flew from their beds
Bengals coach: 'God's hand on me'
Driver got upside-down trip on freeway median
Photographer encounters death, devastation
House is a cheap price to pay for life
Community safe, serene and vulnerable
In Addyston and Ripley County, some feel blessed just to be alive
Survivors eager to swap stories
Two died in field; two died on roads
Adjusters quick to arrive at disaster
To file a claim
Dealing with storm aftermath
Don't rush repairs after storm
Tips to picking a contractor
Kids need help to overcome grief, fears
Talking to kids
Phones, power out until Sunday
Rescue team did tough job
- Storm could spur support for tax levy
Storms' memories linger after damage is repaired
Mobilization was instant
Tornado tales
TV/radio stations had reason to boast
Volunteers grab chain saws, mops as workers untangle wires
At least 7 businesses destroyed
911 calls reveal confusion, fear