Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 4, 2014

Giving time to others

Mercer County 911 director takes pride in helping community

By ANNE ELGIN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A Mercer County man is living his dream by providing emergency assistance to others, all while still volunteering his time to his community that he loves.

Bob Hoge, the director of Mercer County 911, was born and raised in Princeton and now lives in Bluefield with his wife and two children.

 Hoge began his work in emergency management long before he became the director of 911.

“I have always enjoyed being able to help others,” Hoge said.

Hoge began work with the Boy Scouts and when he was old enough he joined the Princeton Rescue Squad.

While at Princeton High School Hoge became interested in photography.

“I don’t know whether you would call me an ambulance chaser or just nosy, but I had a scanner and I would listen and go to the wrecks. I began taking pictures of wrecks and became really involved taking pictures for the state police, fire departments and the sheriff’s office,” Hoge said.

He worked on the side taking pictures and then went to work taking school pictures and working as a full-time photographer with brother-in-law Steve Jesse.

“Photography is just something I have always enjoyed and still try and get out to take pictures when I can,” he said.

Hoge joined the East River Volunteer Fire Department in 1973 and volunteered until 1995.

“I started working for 911 in 1994 as the addressing coordinator, when I decided I needed a job with benefits and retirement,” he said.

After a couple years of working with 911, Hoge became the director of 911 in December 1997. Hoge oversees the operations of the 911 facility.

“911 has sure changed over the years with all the technology that is available and the technology to come is going to be wonderful,” Hoge said.

“When 911 first went online, we promoted ourselves as an enhanced 911 center”, he said. “When a call comes in we automatically receive the callers address and information. With the original 911, the caller had to physically give the information from person to person.”

Although it is a little harder for 911 to track cell phones and get the coordinates, it can be done, just takes a few seconds longer”, he said. “With the next generation 911 will be able to receive text, pictures and videos.”

The inside of the Mercer County 911 Center has been upgraded so much to help our employees do the best they can do at their job,” Hoge said.

The 911 center can accommodate up to six dispatchers at a time with all kinds of technology that help them, help others. The desk and chairs raise and lower to different heights to accommodate different needs, advanced computer technology and mapping to help dispatchers locate the callers quickly, and even a special raised floor in the building that stores wires and other equipment.

“We will even pick you up and take you home when the weather is bad,” Hoge said.

“I work with a great bunch of people. I enjoy all the people and responders, it’s the best part of my job,” Hoge said.

Not only has Hoge seen many changes throughout the years with 911, he is also active in the community.

After years of being out of school, Hoge attended Bluefield State College and majored in emergency management.

“While I was in school getting my bachelors degree and working full time, my wife was getting her masters degree. Talk about a couple rough years in the Hoge household,” Hoge said.

While still taking pictures on the side sometimes, Hoge also serves on different committees.

Hoge serves on the board of the Bluefield Union Mission.

“I am kind of the go-to man, they tell me what to do and I get it done,” Hoge said.

Hoge volunteers with his church, Church of Christ at Maple View.

“I just really enjoy the satisfaction to help people and volunteering my time,” Hoge said.

Hoge currently serves as the secretary for the state wide 911 council. A council made up of all the 911 directors. He has also served as the council president in the past.

Hoge is also on the executive committee for the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network and also the chairman of planning committee. The West Virginia Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) is a collaborative effort by state, county and municipal public safety entities to establish and maintain a statewide Interoperable radio network for emergency services.

Last but not least, Hoge is also the chair of the wireless tower assistance fund.

“The fund provides money for wireless towers in the state to help provide better 911 wireless coverage,” Hoge said.

In between volunteering, meetings and a full time job, Hoge still loves to enjoy time with his family and spending time outdoors riding ATVs.

“My blood runs deep here in Mercer County, I really enjoy what I do and love volunteering my time to help others,” Hoge said.

 — Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com