Fast Response Prevents Fire Disaster

July 17, 2019 by Dana Rasmussen

Fast Response Prevents Fire Disaster

In any fire emergency, there are factors that can make the situation more dangerous for those involved. For instance, individuals trapped inside the burning structure and the known presence of hazardous materials can turn an emergency into a catastrophe within seconds.

When a fire broke out at a car dealership in metro Detroit, dispatchers with the Macomb County Sheriff's Office knew they had to get help on the scene as quickly as possible to prevent wide-scale damage.

"The fire was one of the largest to ever occur in the county," communication administrator Angela Elsey said. "By the time it escalated to the fourth alarm, we had 13 fire departments on the scene."

According to Elsey, dispatchers handled more than 1,000 calls for service during the fire over an eight-hour period. What made dispatching emergency services to the fire as well as to all other calls for service that day easier was the agency's computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software.

When building out their CAD system, dispatchers programmed their system to automatically send the appropriate fire departments and apparatus to the scene when mutual aid is requested. The system knows not only which agency and what apparatus is required to be sent, but also the order in which it should be sent when mutual aid is requested. The system is also configured to know if the units dispatched are being sent to another station or to the scene.

"In a four-alarm fire, it's very chaotic for dispatchers to send 13 separate fire departments to an emergency," Elsey said. "The software saved us in that scenario."

In addition to sending the proper response to the fire, dispatchers were able to send appropriate responses to other medical calls in the city at the same time without any delay.

"When numerous resources are tied up for a large-scale emergency, it can be difficult to get fast responses to other emergencies," Elsey said. "But with our system and the efficiency of our dispatchers, we know we're always sending the best response."

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