THOMASVILLE -- The November escape of an inmate from the Thomas County Jail resulted in chaos at Thomas County E-911.

A new emergency radio procedure established at the agency is expected to correct the situation, Ann Powell, E-911 director, told the E-911 User Board Thursday.

Many officers involved in the jail-escape situation, along with those in routine matters, were using the same radio channels. The new policy calls for commanding officers in an incident to use a newly established emergency channel.

Routine communications traffic will take place on normal channels during the emergency. Also, the policy calls for a commanding officer to be designated to communicate with dispatch.

"By doing so, traffic coming into the dispatch center will not be disorganized, jumbled or confusing," the policy states.

Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell, User Board chairman, asked Powell about emergencies in which more than one agency is involved.

A train derailment and chemical spill, for instance, might stretch for several blocks, with the emergency medical service, fire departments and law enforcement working the scene.

In that situation, said Thomasville Fire Chief Joe Cole, it is best to establish a command post and specify a commanding officer.

Thomasville police Capt. Mark Scott noted than during a series of September 2004 hurricanes, agencies did a good job of unifying commands.

Homeland Security grant money will not come to the community if unified commands are not practiced, Scott told the User Board.

"Eventually, it's got to come under one person," interjected Boston police Chief Chuck Weaver.

Scott, who thinks the E-911 policy is a good move, said those responding to the escape did not know dispatch was in chaos. It is the E-911 director's responsibility to correct the situation, he added.

The E-911 director said that in future emergencies, the commanding officer will be instructed to move radio communications to the emergency channel.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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