Technology gets responders there sooner
When Frazer Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 is dispatched, all firefighters need to do is check their smartphones to find out the location, incident information and who's responding.
Once they're on the way to the scene, they can use an iPad mounted in the truck to get directions and view a map of the area with fire hydrant locations.
“You hit a couple of buttons and it brings up where all the hydrants are, what companies are responding and what trucks go where,” said fire Chief David Gould. “We used to have these big, thick books, and you'd have to try to find the street and where they have the hydrant, whereas this is right on the screen.”
It's an invaluable tool when seconds count.
“Every minute we can save is less potential for something to happen to somebody,” said Brad Vakulick, fire company president.
Since June, Frazer No. 2 has been using Emergency Call Manager, or ECM2, software designed by two Murrysville-area firefighters.
The program integrates the computer-aided dispatch system used at the county level with smartphone and iPad apps and a desktop computer at the fire station.
The dispatch call is sent via text message to members, which Vakulick said often arrives about five minutes before the county dispatch center sends out the call to their pagers.
The message contains information the county 911 call taker types into the system.
Frazer and Penn Hills in Allegheny County and about 100 fire departments in Westmoreland County, including Arnold and Murrysville, are using the system. Fire departments in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey and New York also use ECM2.
Arnold fire Chief J.C. Tedorski said Arnold's two departments use the ECM2 iPhone app so members who choose to can get dispatch information sent to their phones.
“It's not our sole means of notification, but what it does give us is more information than we would normally get from just a voice announcement over our traditional pager,” he said. “The additional information in those updates is very valuable information for us.”
White Valley Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Bohink and Assistant Chief Steve Henninger developed the system and run ECM2.
“We were looking for a way to bring technology into our field,” Henninger said. “What started it all is that we used to carry alpha numeric pagers, which was expensive to maintain — and a lot of our firefighters didn't use them, anyway.
“But what they did always have on them, no matter what, was a cellphone.”
The system costs Frazer $2,500 a year. The fire department paid about $6,000 for three iPads, which are mounted in the fire engine, brush truck and the tower truck.
A 40-inch television screen, donated by the Sears Grand store at the Pittsburgh Mills mall, is mounted on a wall in the fire station so everyone can see the call information and who is responding.
Frazer firefighters said they opted for the system because it helps them do their jobs more efficiently, particularly in their mutual aid communities with which they're not as familiar.
Frazer averages about 200 calls annually. The department responds in Springdale, Springdale Township, Indiana Township, Cheswick, East Deer, West Deer, Tarentum and Arnold.
“You can't remember every street,” Gould said.
The system is also practical.
“There had been a few times prior to us having this that we'd have a truck rolling out of here with three people on it and then we have two people coming in the driveway,” said Jack Linderman, the department's engineer. “Now we're able to see that this person is coming, what their estimated time of arrival is and we can wait.”
Knowing who is responding helps them pick the crews better because some members excel in truck work and others in engine work, Vakulick said.
Linderman noted that the Allegheny Valley fire and EMS dispatch scanner feed has crashed at least three times over the past few months and emergency responders weren't able to use it.
“Our radios wouldn't work, and we had to switch over to North Fire 2, which includes several other major areas,” he said. “Our ECM2 app was still working and allowing us to dispatch through that.”
Henninger said ECM2 hopes to continue to simplify firehouse operations.
The company is upgrading the system to automatically input fire call information into the standard form that fire departments use to report to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
The report includes the date, time and location of the fire as well as who responded.
All the fire department would need to do is write a short narrative about the incident, Henninger said.
“All fire departments have to report their fires to the state in order to be eligible for state grant money,” he said. “One thing I learned is that there are lot of fire departments that don't even report because it is so time consuming.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2,200 union employees of ATI lose coverage
- November spared Valley effects of wintry weather
- Mentor takes young Brackenridge hunter under his wing
- Regoli won’t seek recount in Westmoreland County judge election
- Shoppers can buy gifts for seniors through Home Instead program
- New Kensington man killed in North Buffalo crash
- Tarentum Bridge falcon defends turf as eagles scout nesting locations
- Deer Lakes School Board gives $10,000 raise to new Superintendent Logue-Belden
- South Butler students push composting as a way to slow food waste
- CNG station approved for Harmar
- Congressman Rothfus visits Kistaco Farm in Kiski Township