New dispatch system will better allocate fire, EMS resources

It may take as long as 1 year of testing before the new system is fully implemented

By Greg Kendall-Ball 
The Abilene Reporter-News

ABILENE, Texas — Because of scheduling conflicts with key stakeholders, the city of Abilene's new emergency medical dispatch system originally was scheduled to go live in May will be rolled out in early July.

Lt. Greg Goettsch, spokesman for the Abilene Fire Department, said Wednesday that the installation of the new system — designed to provide a better level of care through more appropriate allocation of resources — was going well, but difficulty in coordinating staff schedules caused the delay in deployment. The target now is for the week of July 9.

"We got the software installed, but we had to have the company's IT people here at the same time as our IT people. And with people on vacation and so on, waiting on different people to be available for different parts of the project took more time than we thought," Goettsch said.

Goettsch said the transition to the new system will not be abrupt. "It's not like we're just going to flip a switch and all of a sudden be in the new system. It will be a gradual migration, as we roll out parts and evaluate it, refine it and improve it. It'll be a continual process. It's all about providing better services to the people of Abilene, so we'll be testing and improving as we go," he said.

It could take up to a year — enough time to collect "good data" on the system, Goettsch said — before the department would consider the new EMD system fully implemented.

The new system is the ProQA system from Priority Dispatch based in Salt Lake City. The Abilene City Council approved the $127,000 price tag for the new software in November.

Goettsch said once the system is in place, Abilene residents will see an improvement in the quality of care provided by the city's emergency responders.

"This allows us to increase our service, without having to increase staffing. We'll be better at sending the appropriate equipment based on the calls received," he said. "If someone calls in with a skinned knee, they're not going to get the equivalent of an emergency room sent to their front door. And by not tying up all our resources on minor calls, they'll be free for the more critical calls that come in."

Copyright 2012 The E.W. Scripps Company
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