FOX19 NOW Investigates: Multiple fire code violations at county - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 NOW Investigates: Multiple fire code violations at county 911 center

(PHOTO: FOX19 NOW/ Jody Barr) (PHOTO: FOX19 NOW/ Jody Barr)
BATAVIA, OH (FOX19) -

A county-wide 911 system crash in Clermont County led to a fire marshal's investigation into multiple fire code violations at the county's 911 dispatch center. 

County officials are under a strict deadline to comply with the state's fire code or potentially face charges.

Last Friday at 4:30 p.m., dispatchers and fire responders were unable to use the county's radio system after temperatures inside the communication tower building reached 148 degrees. 

The air conditioning system inside the building, which keeps the radio systems cool, quit working.

The county did not have a monitoring system in place, which would have detected an increase in temperatures. The two HVAC units that were in place to back up an HVAC failure were not working, according to Central Joint Fire-EMS District Chief Kevin Riley.

It took the county until 4:48 p.m. to get the 911 system back online, which Riley told FOX19, put all public safety workers at risk. 

"This radio system is every fireman, every police officer, every EMT and paramedic's lifeline to communicate with the county," he said. "To communicate with the dispatch center and it's being ran by Home Depot extension cords."

"It caught us by surprise and took down the system," Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey told FOX19.

"I'm somewhat surprised," Humphrey said of the violations and the system crash. "We had plan to have monitoring on the air conditioning, but that didn't get installed yet."

Humphrey admitted the county still doesn't have the monitoring software to perform the monitoring in order to protect the multi-million dollar dispatch radio equipment.

'SERIOUS' LIFE-SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT DISPATCH CENTER

"No first responder in Clermont County was able to communicate with the communications center," Riley said. "So, if a fireman had been in trouble. If an EMT or paramedic had been in trouble, or if a policeman had been in trouble, there was no way for them to call for help," Riley explained in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

The crash led Riley and his department to the tower building Tuesday morning. The trip led to Riley's department charging Clermont County officials with 10 separate fire code violations.

"We could only take a couple of steps into the room without stepping on some of the clutter and old equipment laying on the floor," Riley said.

The most egregious violation, Riley said, was finding eight drop cords delivering power to the county's multi-million dollar radio system.

Riley's office served the county Wednesday morning with the notice of violation. The violations described a 'cluttered' county building with multiple fire hazards.

One of the violations dealt with 'junk' blocking and lying in entrances and exits of the tower building, Riley's report shows.

MEET THE DEADLINE, OR ELSE

The Central Joint Fire-EMS District gave Clermont County Communications Center Director John Kiskaden until Tuesday at 10 a.m. to correct the problems fire investigators outlined in their violation report. If the violations are not corrected by then, the department can file charges, according to Chief Kevin Riley.

"We have the option to do that, but we'll likely give them an extension if they can show it's necessary," Riley said.

The violation notice states, "If you fail to comply with this notice before the reinspection date listed, you may be liable for the penalties provided for by law for such violations."

Commissioner Humphrey told FOX19 NOW the county started working on the violations at Noon Wednesday and is providing human monitoring of the Bauer Road tower building until Friday. That's when Humphrey said the monitoring system will be operating.

The concern for Riley, who held a seat on the commission charged with installing the new radio systems a few months ago, is whether the 148 degree temperatures damaged the dispatch equipment.

We saw two Motorola contractors on site Wednesday afternoon, but the county has not given us an update on any potential damages.

Clermont County spokeswoman Kathy Williams told FOX19 NOW, the county is "taking care of it," but did not have any specifics on what the county is doing. Williams said she was unable to contact the people in charge of the systems by the close of business Wednesday.

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