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No excuses: Why missing an emergency dispatch notice is entirely preventable

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No excuses: Why missing an emergency dispatch notice is entirely preventable

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By Yoona Ha, FireRescueOne BrandFocus Staff

Thomas Stearn was pushing his cart out the doors of a grocery store when he saw flashing lights and sirens blaring from an engine that was whizzing past him to respond to a fire in his neighborhood.

This automated dispatch service offers extended coverage that even reaches zones without a radio signal. (image/Pixabay)
This automated dispatch service offers extended coverage that even reaches zones without a radio signal. (image/Pixabay)

He found this puzzling, especially since he was a volunteer firefighter who was ready to respond to incoming calls, yet he wasn’t notified once. Turns out, because he was inside of a building that had poor radio reception, the paging system didn’t activate his pager.

Most people would have shrugged off this problem, but it stuck with Stearn, who was determined to find a workaround. From a very early age, he was fascinated with how computers worked and tinkered around with being a radio operator.

“I thought to myself that there’s got to be a way to get a text message when my pager goes off, so my geekiness kicked in and I was able to create something that would ensure that I’d never miss a call again,” said Stearn, who was a volunteer firefighter for over a decade.

In 2003, he configured a makeshift device that sent him a text when an emergency alarm went off. Word got out fast that Stearn had this tool, so soon he had several local fire departments knocking on his door.

It didn’t take long for Stearn to realize that he needed to keep up with the massive demand for his notification system. So, he founded his company eDispatches in 2004 with the mission of helping first responders never miss an emergency call again.

Keeping pace in an era of smartphones

A lot has changed since 2004, and smartphones are nearly ubiquitous among Americans. Therefore, it might be surprising to some that radio receiver pagers are still prevalently used among many fire departments to this day.

“Departments still rely on pagers because they’re a simple line of notification for area departments. Some even worry that adding in online features and smartphones would introduce a number of complex variables,” said Stearn.

As a tech company, eDispatches has also evolved over the past decade with an emphasis on seamlessly supplementing a department’s existing equipment. Today, it offers audio- and text-based dispatch messages that ping landlines and cellphones, as well as an app-based service that can turn your smartphone into a fire pager by also giving you repeat, mapping/routing and live continuous streaming of dispatch audio.

So how does that work?

eDispatches’s notification system uses a radio receiver and a computer that the company provides departments for free. When a dispatch message comes from the area’s main dispatch center and reports an incident like a building fire, that information is automatically sent to the company’s servers in a way that doesn’t require a dispatcher’s involvement.

This automated dispatch service offers extended coverage that even reaches zones without a radio signal. That means the 10 to 20 percent of fire responders who previously could not get alerts in certain areas are also fully covered by eDispatches’ alert system. For fire chiefs, this is great news, because with the company’s enhanced CAD relay function, they no longer have to question if they are utilizing all of their available staff to respond to calls.

Departmental contact information and settings can also be easily managed by your department’s account administrator through a website or an app to customize what types of alerts (such as non-emergency announcements) are sent to the entire department or to specific individuals.

How an enhanced CAD Relay system can help departments streamline information

Having an enhanced CAD Relay service allows each agency to filter out the non-critical message that comes with most CAD information. With eDispatches’ new app firefighters only get the message they need, along with mapping information. So when there’s a call coming in all users have to tap on is the “map it” button that tells them exactly where to respond to. Plus, when the call is responded to, it’s easy to pull reports on the incident, so firemen don’t have to rely on memory to generate their incident report.

eDispatches’ latest offering for first responders is the availability and response feature, which lets your fire department and EMS agency forecast staff availability to respond to emergency calls. Those who are alerted can now easily mark their availability and response for future calls, so department chiefs always have a transparent view into staff availability.

“Recent technological advances have opened the door for us to offer many other options. As a volunteer firefighter, I’m familiar with what these guys are going through so I’m all about putting our customers first and also working to incorporate their feedback into our updates,” added Stearn.

When you’re considering an emergency responder dispatch service, look for one that: offers departments free hardware to run an emergency notification system, gives departments easy control over who is notified, removes range limitations and has the capacity to alert anyone in the area with cellular coverage. 

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