with state and federal organiLee Griffiths and Dan Alger install the final emergency call box on Highway 191. PHOTO COURTESY PATTY ALGER

In pursuit of community safety

Emergency Call Box effort nears completion

It is important for the community to have earlier access to emergency services on Highway 191 due to its remote nature and lack of cell phone coverage.

“Making our roads safer for the traveling public as well as outdoor recreational users is a vision I believe in,” engineer, local business owner and Rotary Club of Big Sky member Lee Griffiths said.

So, five years ago, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work, spearheading a Rotary project to upgrade two emergency call boxes and install two more at strategic locations.

The culmination of his effort approaches with a goal to have the final emergency call box fully functional by the end of the year. That final emergency call box was recently placed in the ground 17 miles south of Big Sky at the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park.

While Griffiths facilitated the technical work for the installation and upgrade of the call boxes with both 3 Rivers Communications and Rath Communications, much of his effort has involved negotiations with state and federal organizations. Some of that work has involved highway easements with the Montana Department of Transportation and securing a one-foot by one-foot square of land from the United State Forest Service for the call box to be placed at the Yellowstone National Park boundary.

The two emergency call boxes located at Taylor Fork and Moose Creek Campground were “installed 20 years ago, were unreliable, and in desperate need of an upgrade to solar powered and fiber optic calling.”

The call box at Lava Lake, a site that Rotary Club of Big Sky strategically selected after meetings with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and the Big Sky Fire Department, is used for twice as many calls as the Moose Creek and Taylor Fork call boxes, according to Sgt. Dan Haydon with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

He cited Sheriff’s Office data that the Lava Lake emergency call box calls average out to more than one call every month of the year, for incidents that include disabled vehicles, traffic hazards, car crashes and even some fuel spills.

Most recently, the Lava Lake call box was used to summon Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue to Storm Castle for an injured rock climber “who was midway up their climb when they had a pretty bad fall and leg injury,” Sgt. Haydon said.

He appreciates that the call boxes are well marked so people can see them.

“That has to make a big difference to all of our employees and construction workers that are driving here for work – to know where to go to get help. The more people who know about them the better it will help all of us,” he said.

Griffiths is glad to be near the finish line and hoping that all will go smoothly in getting the final call box operational by the end of 2020. He is now seeking his next target – “a new project with its own unique challenges.”

Emergency call box locations

• Lava Lake – also known as 35 mile per hour bridge

• Moose Creek

• Taylor Fork

• The Yellowstone National Park Boundary 17 miles south of Big Sky (not yet functional)

More Information

Lone Peak Lookout

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