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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Lessons learned from a 911 dispatch mix-up

No matter how sophisticated our technology has become, it is never a replacement for the basics

By Adam K. Thiel

I've never worked anywhere that the occasional street mix-up didn't occur between a 9-1-1 caller, communications center, and responding units in the field.

As the neighbor interviewed for this story correctly stated, it's a "system" that ultimately depends on the complex interaction of people and
technology for effective performance.

The positive lesson in this case was the action taken by a heads-up Pittsburgh fire company that, hearing the (incorrect) dispatch address and knowing they have a similarly named street in their response area, hit the road and discovered the 2-alarm fire.

(While it's important to follow your department's SOPs for self-dispatching, company officers that use good judgment in these instances shouldn't have a problem.)

No matter how sophisticated our computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems, mobile computer terminals (MCTs), and GPS devices become, technology is never a substitute for the basics; regular map/street drills and knowing your first-due area like the back of your hand.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.


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