The Waterloo Region Record
KITCHENER, Canada — Firefighters are arriving at medical emergencies up to 40 seconds faster thanks to a new computer system that dispatches fire and ambulance simultaneously.
"This is about reducing response times," said Fire Chief Tim Beckett.
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The Kitchener fire department is the first in the province to use this new computer dispatch system called EMS-TIF, which stands for Emergency Medical Services Technical Interoperability Framework.
The system went live in June after a year-long pilot project. Eventually it will be in all fire dispatch centres in Ontario, Beckett said. It cost $80,000, of which the province paid $60,000, and the city $20,000.
This technology links by computer the provincial ambulance dispatch centre in Cambridge with the Kitchener fire dispatch centre. When person calls 911 for a medical emergency, dispatchers in both call centres receive the information at the same time, the chief said.
Previously, the ambulance dispatcher would have to call the fire dispatcher with the information, increasing response times by crucial seconds in life-and-death situations, he said.
Kitchener fire department dispatches fire calls for the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo and the townships of Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich.
"At the end of the day, what we want to look at is increasing public safety," Beckett said.
The time clock said 9:49:15 when the alarm sounded in the dispatch centre Thursday at the Kitchener fire headquarters on Strasburg Road.
It was a 911 call about a person experiencing difficulty breathing at a Kitchener strip mall.
Kitchener fire dispatcher Jennifer Gazzellone dispatched the closest fire truck. It arrived on the scene five minutes and 49 seconds later. Firefighters stabilized the patient until paramedics arrived.
"Seconds save lives," Gazzellone said.
While Beckett is pleased with the new system, he said it has some limitations — namely, it is designed for medical calls only. It also does not include a global positioning system which would assist in ensuring the closest fire truck responds to an emergency.
Last year, firefighters went to 9,544 calls of which about 5,500 were medical incidents.
The region is in the midst of studying the feasibility of central dispatch system to reduce ambulance response times to emergencies. Currently, there are four dispatch centres in the region.
Beckett said this new dispatch system would "augment the vision of a regional dispatch centre."
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