New dispatch system aims to reduce response times

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LINCOLN, Neb. — When there is an emergency, seconds matter.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue along with the Lincoln Lancaster County Emergency Communications Center are working to reduce the time it takes to dispatch a call and respond to an emergency. A new dispatch system is now in place.

"With the new system, I can dispatch multiple units at multiple times. So, for instance if there is a fire and a medical at the same time, previously I would have to choose the higher priority and dispatch that," Dispatcher Carson Coles said.

"This is critical because faster response can mean better outcomes, Eric Jones, LFR Battalion Chief said. "This kind of technology helps our emergency dispatchers as well as our firefighters achieve their mission and enhances our service to the community."

Jones said the system has additional benefits. The alarm tones used at fire stations have been shown to increase heart and blood pressure rates in firefighters, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

"Science has shown the (new) tone alerts them in a way that is less adverse. Any one call it's not a big deal, but you do a job 30 years, it makes a difference." Chief Michael Despain said.

Fire stations now have digital screens that alert crews of the type of call, the address and the units that need to respond. "Prior to this they would get the audible, maybe it was scratchy or maybe the dispatcher was processing two calls. They would have to wait until they got to the computer system before they determined if that was their call," Chief Despain said.

In terms of "turnout" time, the new screens will help speed the time along as crews are processed out of the station. The screens are placed so that they are seeing the visual cues of where they are going on the way out of the building.

Jones said the new system can reduce turnout time by 15 or more seconds.

The system was funded through a $610,000 federal Assistance for Firefighters grant. LFR was responsible for a 10-percent match.