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Where’s the water? This app upgrade makes locating hydrants and points of interest easy

Here’s how first responders can gain more clarity before arriving at a scene

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Instead of having to locate sources of water and other points of interest on the spot, this recently upgraded app provides information that helps first responders do their job that much easier.


The element of surprise may be nice for some things in life, but when a call comes in through dispatch, it’s helpful to know as much as possible about a scene ahead of time. Instead of having to locate sources of water and other points of interest on the spot, this recently upgraded app provides information that helps first responders do their job that much easier.

Developed in 2004, the eDispatches app has worked to bridge the information gap between dispatch and first responders. While serving as a volunteer first responder, creator Tom Stearn found himself looking for a way to ensure dispatch calls were received every time.

After missing a dispatch call for an emergency at the very grocery store he was shopping in at the time, he created eDispatches. Rather than relying solely on a pager, first responders using eDispatches can opt to receive dispatch notifications via text, phone call or app alert directly to their personal device.

“If they do get an alert, they can notify others in their department whether or not they are going to the station, scene or they are unable to respond,” said Peter Grammatas, technical support manager at eDispatches. “There are numerous additional features and tools that help the first responders to communicate and collaborate with their departments.”

This latest iteration of eDispatches includes two features requested frequently by customers – the ability to map hydrants and points of interest.


Every moment spared not having to look for a hydrant is a moment that can be used to help save a life or extinguish a fire. When first responders arrive at an area they’re unfamiliar with, the hunt for a hydrant may take longer than they’d like.

However, with eDispatches’ new hydrant mapping option, the time spent locating a hydrant can be cut down significantly. Based on the call location, the app will show all the mapped hydrants in that area, says Grammatas, helping first responders determine which hydrant they’ll be using. The new feature has been well received, he adds.

“We’ve gotten a great response from our community of customers and users who love this feature,” said Grammatas.

Not only is it simple to use eDispatches to locate already mapped hydrants, entering these locations into the system is just as straightforward. Through a feature named War Drive, first responders can drive around their district and manually enter hydrants on the app’s map. Notes and details can be added to each hydrant as needed.

Larger districts can also provide data to eDispatches directly rather than manually entering each individual hydrant.

“The local water utility typically has all the hydrants mapped out already,” said Grammatas. “Once departments get this file, they can provide us the latitudes and longitudes. We provide them with a template, and when they fill it out, we upload those hydrants for them.”


Having an advance awareness of hydrant location is certainly helpful when arriving at a scene, but not all departments have access to water in this way.

“A lot of departments have drafting areas, so they don’t have hydrants,” said Grammatas. “They have to rely on bodies of water like lakes and rivers to extract the water from to use on the fire. We wanted to provide numerous options for unique situations and not just permit normal fire hydrants.”

This led to eDispatches’ second upgrade included in the latest app release – the addition of points of interest. A range of items can be selected and mapped, including lockboxes, construction zones and railroad crossings. Storm shelters, boat launches and an array of other designations that can prove helpful for assessing a scene beforehand are also included.

Designed to be entered manually, most points of interest can be added to the map in under one minute, making it easy for crews to evaluate and enter the items that need the most attention.


Hydrant mapping and points of interest are just a few of the many upgrades eDispatches has developed since the app’s inception. User availability and alert notifications can now be personalized, and enhanced CAD relay can provide additional scene details to first responders.

Customers regularly ask for updates and the eDispatches team listens and tries to meet those demands, says Grammatas. Another requested feature, called “Visual Response,” allows first responders to view the location of other individuals from their department and identify who is on their way to a call in real time.

“A lot of people wanted the Response feature, and we met that demand,” said Grammatas. “We routinely receive enhancement or feature requests. We prioritize them based on customer needs and wants.”

Rather than having to pay for the newest eDispatches features, hydrant mapping and points of interest will be accessible to members immediately after updating the app on any mobile device. Now, first responders can use the app to save even more time and gain additional clarity before arriving at a scene.

Visit eDispatches for more information.

Read next: Newly improved app gives responders more complete dispatch information for faster, better prepared response

Courtney Levin is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol where she develops content for the public safety audience including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has written professionally since 2016.