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Why Text-to-Speech Makes Sense for Dispatch Centers

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Automated Voice to the Rescue: Putting an End to Confused Communications

While time is of the essence when it comes to activating first-responders for an emergency, clear, accurate information about the incident is critical for ensuring a fast and appropriate reaction. Unfortunately, garbled or unintelligible communications between dispatch centers and fire stations can lead to confusion and delays.

It’s all Greek to me…

We tend to best understand those who speak in similar tones, patterns and intonations as ourselves. But consider our linguistic diversity and the subtle nuances around inflections and tones of voice across populations. Or think about the more pronounced distinctions when it comes to accents, dialects and even pronunciations. Add to that the fact that people speak at different paces, and it’s easy to see why we can struggle to understand those who speak differently than us.

Combine this with the fact that dispatch communications hit fire stations “out of the blue,” instantly relaying vital information. Those in the fire station don’t have time to adjust to the voice coming across the line – they need to immediately grasp and interpret the details of the communication. But our brains must adapt when trying to digest unfamiliar and unexpected sounds and speech patterns.

Consistent communications become a reality

Automated voice eliminates this issue, ensuring a consistent announcement every time. The system automatically takes incident details input by dispatchers and converts it to natural-sounding speech. While dispatchers are on the phone with callers, the system delivers automated broadcasts to the fire station.

The key benefit is that the output is in the same voice and inflection, at the same volume levels, every time. As a result, firefighters can more easily hear, understand and digest announcements – and get out the door faster.

The system includes a tool that allows dispatchers to modify pronunciations to tailor the articulations to local norms. For example, if a street name is being pronounced incorrectly, users can modify it. The tool makes it possible to fine-tune intonations and inflections as well..

Harvesting Incident Recital Time to Improve Response

The PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System™ includes an automated voice feature that converts incident details from text-to-speech and relays the communication to speakers inside a fire station. These communications happen rapidly and can be simultaneously broadcast to multiple responding units. By removing the extra step to recite the announcement over a PA system (for example), the system accelerates dispatch-processing times and alleviates dispatcher stress. It also frees emergency response operations staff to focus on the incident at hand and better collaborate in the dispatch center.

PURVIS Strengthens Relationship with TriTech

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PURVIS Systems has invested in developing and enhancing the integration of its Fire Station Alerting System with the TriTech Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) console. TriTech is one of the leading CAD vendors supporting 911 and other emergency dispatch centers. The company recently welcomed more than 700 attendees to San Diego for their annual “TriCon” conference, and PURVIS participated as a Gold level sponsor.

PURVIS designs and develops one of the world’s leading Fire Station Alerting Systems, which integrates seamlessly with CAD systems and then activates a variety of communications devices that enable first responders to mobilize effectively for an emergency. PURVIS integrates with TriTech’s CAD solution across several mutual customers, including Charleston County, SC and most recently Plano, TX.

Rick Foster, Vice President of the PURVIS Public Safety Division can be shown in this photograph, at TriCon 2014, discussing some of the features of the Fire Station Alerting System with a representative from the Plano Fire and Rescue Services department.

Understanding NFPA 1710 Response Times

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What Fire Station Communication Centers Need to Know About NFPA 1710 Alarm Handling Time Requirements 

Modern Fire Station Alerting Systems contain features, such as CAD system integration, automatic text-to-speech conversion of incident notices, simultaneous broadcast to multiple stations, and utilization of multi-media communications in notifying first reponders, that can all contribute to improved fire/rescue department response time.

Time has always been of the essence as far as first responders are concerned. Responding quickly can make all the difference in saving lives, reducing injuries and minimizing property damage. This article takes a look at the guidelines as it relates to NFPA 1710 response times, reflecting the most recent definitions.

Total Emergency Response Time can be broken down into these categories:

Alarm transfer time:

The alarm transfer time (NFPA 1710, is “the time interval from the receipt of an emergency alarm at the public service answering point (PSAP) until the alarm is first received at the fire department communication center.” Alarm transfer time is generally under the control of the PSAP/911 communications center.

Alarm answering time:

The alarm answering time (NFPA 1710, is “the time interval that begins when the alarm is received at the fire communication center and ends when the alarm is acknowledged at the fire communication center.” Alarm answering time is generally under the control of the communications center that supports the fire/ems department.

Alarm processing time:

The alarm processing time (NFPA 1710, is “the time interval from when the alarm is acknowledged at the fire communication center until response information begins to be transmitted via voice or electronic means to emergency-response facilities (ERFs or fire stations) and emergency-response units (ERUs or fire apparatus). Alarm answering time is generally under the control of the communications center that supports the fire/ems department.

Turnout time:

The time interval that begins when the emergency response facilities (ERFs) and emergency response units (ERUs) notification process begins by either an audible alarm or visual annunciation or both and ends at the beginning point of travel time. Turnout time is under the control of the fire/ems department.

Travel time:

This is defined as “the time interval that begins when a unit is en route to the emergency incident and ends when the unit arrives at the scene.” In the 2010 edition of NFPA 1710, the following was added: “The travel times for units responding on the first alarm were clarified to indicate the first unit must arrive within 4 minutes travel time and all units must arrive within 8 minutes travel time.” Travel time is the responsibility of the fire/ems department, but often dependent on factors not in their control, like distance to the scene.

Initiating Action/Intervention time:

This is the interval of time from when a unit arrives on the scene to the initiation of emergency mitigation. Initiating Action/Intervention time is under the control of the fire/ems department.

Response Time Guidelines:

When it comes to lowering response time, most of the focus is placed on reducing the time interval from fire station to scene (Turnout time to Initiating Action/Intervention time). However, the latest NFPA 1710 standard (updated in 2010) (Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments) addresses time intervals relating to alarms and processing by the communication center(s).

In particular, NFPA 1710 refines terminology for time frames and updates requirements for alarm handling time frames to correspond with the latest edition of NFPA 1221 (Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems).

  • The fire department shall establish a performance objective of having an alarm answering time of not more than 15 seconds for at least 95 percent of the alarms received and not more than 40 seconds for at least 99 percent of the alarms received, as specified by NFPA 1221.
  • When the alarm is received at a PSAP and transferred to a secondary answering point or communication center, the agency responsible for the PSAP shall establish a performance objective of having an alarm transfer time of not more than 30 seconds for at least 95 percent of all alarms processed, as specified by NFPA 1221.
  • The fire department shall establish a performance objective of having an alarm processing time of not more than 60 seconds for at least 90 percent of the alarms and not more than 90 seconds for at least 99 percent of the alarms, as specified by NFPA 1221.

Once the station first receives an alarm, the fire department controls the time to turnout, travel to the scene, and perform some action or intervene in some way at the scene. NFPA 1710 requires that turnout time should be 80 seconds for fire incidents and 60 seconds for EMS incidents. Travel time to a fire suppression incident, by the initial arriving company, should be 4 minutes or less. There is no benchmark time frame established for initiating a mitigating action or taking other steps to intervene in resolving the issue that created the incident. Instead, NFPA 1710 recommends that fire departments track their action or intervention times and evaluate the data based on the nature of the incident.

PURVIS’ Role in Reducing Response Time

When lives and property are at risk, every second of the emergency response cycle counts. The PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System™, has the features as referenced at the beginning of this article, that can help fire departments reduce alarm processing and turnout times directly, while indirectly improving travel time. It positively impacts travel time by keeping all parts of the response team, including remote personnel, informed with the most up-to-date and accurate information so they can get to the scene quickly with the right equipment.

PURVIS Shows Mobile Firefighter App at Industry Conferences

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PURVIS recently attended the APCO (New Orleans, Aug 3 – 6) and FRI (Dallas, Aug 13 – 16). These industry conferences provided an opportunity to present our new mobile firefighter app that works on the iOS and Android platforms. In addition to delivering incident information via smartphone to remote first responders, one of the more compelling aspects of the app is the command and control visibility that is afforded fire management and administrative staff. The image above is a screenshot of the app’s web interface that provides situational awareness to command staff. Now, supervisors, fire chiefs, dispatchers and other authorized users can:

  • View all incidents and the location of mobile app users based on GPS location
  • Drill into incident or user details
  • Pull up a detailed list view of everything going on in the district
  • Generate dashboard reports based on historical and real-time information to determine utilization, average turnout times and other metrics that can drive department improvement.

FRI2014-ConferenceIn this picture, Jeff Mascola, Product Manager for PURVIS Systems, is discussing the new mobile firefighter app with some interested fire department representatives at the FRI conference in Dallas. The Purvis Station Control Unit with integrated control display can be seen in the background.





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Empowering the Modern Mobile First Responder

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 The nature of responding to emergencies is such that first responders have always been a workforce on the go. And whether they are in-station or on-call when an incident occurs, first responders need accurate and timely incident information. This can mean the difference between saving lives and tragedy.

The Challenge of Alerting Mobile Fire and Rescue Personnel

Getting information to mobile firefighters and EMTs has traditionally been a matter of radio communications.  Handheld radios have been the lifeline between the first responder and central dispatch.  However, communicating effectively via standard voice is not always a reliable and predictable method.  Some of the problems departments face include:

  • Legacy dispatch/alerting systems that force the CAD operator to speak can waste time since the operator has to make time for the activity
  • Legacy systems may not have the intelligence to organize personnel for inclusion or exclusion depending on the nature and type of incident.  This creates dispatch inefficiencies
  • Radio systems can be spotty in quality and reliability, meaning that vital information can be lost or hard to discern.
  • Remote first responders must take good notes on the call, or be supported by in-vehicle, mobile data terminal systems that can receive and retain the dispatch information.

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TV News Coverage of How Charleston County is Improving 911 Response Time

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Charleston County, a recent PURVIS customer, has improved its dispatch communications to fire and rescue personnel with help from PURVIS Systems. Click below for local Charleston, SC television news coverage of the benefits being realized by the community with new technologies that focus on improving 911 response time.

PURVIS Engineer Appointed to NFPA

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PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System Principal Engineer, Scott L’Hereux, has been appointed to the Public Emergency Communication Committee by the NFPA Standards Council. The NFPA is the national fire protection standards body, and the Public Emergency Communication Committee is the arm of the association responsible for the development and revision of any NFPA documents that emanate from a Technical Committee project.

Committee Scope

The Public Emergency Communication Committee shall have primary responsibility for documents relating to the operation, installation, and maintenance of public emergency services communications systems.

Committee Responsibility

Functions as the standards body for the installation, maintenance, and use of Emergency Services Communications Systems (NFPA 1221).  This ties in directly with Fire Station Alerting (FSAS), as meeting the 1221 NFPA standards is always a requirement of an FSAS.

PURVIS is thereby taking an active role in the advancement of fire protection standards, as it relates to the role of communications systems in helping to make safer communities.

Charleston County 911 Speeds Up Fire/Rescue Dispatch

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PURVIS System is partnering with Charleston County, SC to help improve the county’s ability to dispatch fire and rescue teams in an emergency.  PURVIS’ Fire Station Alerting System has been installed in over 70 stations countywide, and enables 911 dispatch to automatically alert in-station and remote personnel with a tailored mix of audio and visual alerts.

“We have already observed a significant difference in our efficiency and speed to dispatch units to an emergency situation,” said Jim Lake, Director of the Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center. “In the 24 hours prior to implementing this new tool we were 79.41% compliant with National Fire Protection Association standards for the dispatch of medical calls. In just the first three hours of operation with station alerting, we became 100% compliant. We have seen initial indications that similar results will be achieved for the dispatch of fire units.”

Read the Charleston County, SC news release for more details.

PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System selected by FDNY

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PURVIS is currently implementing its Fire House Alerting System across New York City’s more than 240 fire houses. The automated alerting system includes an interface to the FDNY’s CAD system and to the citywide IP network used by the department for fire station communications. The system features an array of new in-station devices, including…

  • Station Control Units
  • Tower Lights
  • Speakers
  • Turnout Timers
  • Thermal Printers
  • Drive Bay Motion Sensors
  • Reader Boards
  • Flat Panel Displays

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