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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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