Driving Improved Turnout Times

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Modern fire station alerting technologies are having a material impact on dispatch center call processing times as well as first-responder turnout time.  From a turnout time perspective, fire chiefs can get a more accurate picture on how their department is performing and improving with help from the PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System™ (PURVIS FSAS™), and its Apparatus Detector.

Enabling true turnout time capture and reporting

The PURVIS FSAS’s apparatus presence detector is a small device that can be mounted above each vehicle in a fire station drive bay and it detects the presence of the vehicle in the bay. The detector enables turnout times to be recorded on a unit-by-unit basis. Once an alert comes into the station, the detector, using automatic motion-sensing technology, captures and logs the time the unit leaves the bay. This eliminates the need for station personnel to call in the turnout time, greatly improving the objectivity and accuracy of reporting while creating a valuable stream of data for operational analysis.

Armed with this performance data, station chiefs and department managers can generate reports revealing turnout time details and averages over time, forming a basis for managing the department toward continuous improvement. In turn, they can better investigate issues, such as why a station’s turnout time may be lengthening, and come up with strategies for speeding up turnout processes. The data can also be used to prove that the department meets specific performance thresholds that can help improve a community’s ISO rating.

Servicing Station Walk-up Visitors with Video

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One of PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System’s more unique features is its ability to integrate a video camera, positioned at the front door of the station, into the total alerting process.

This is an optional capability that is in use in front-door-camera2Washington, DC and elsewhere. PURVIS provides a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) camera that can be installed at a station front door or any public entrance and integrated into the fire station alerting system and dispatch center. When the doorbell is pressed, a chime sounds within the station. The camera is automatically activated and displayed on a monitor within the station, and a two-way audio stream is enabled, allowing communications between station personnel and the person outside the station. If no one is available in the station to respond, the same doorbell chime, camera feed, and two-way audio stream can automatically activate at the dispatch center. This allows dispatch center personnel to respond and if necessary, send a vehicle to the station.

Because this is a COTS camera, stations can take advantage of the newest technology, such as higher resolution lenses, being assured that PURVIS can easily integrate the camera with its fire station alerting system and other systems and applications.

The PURVIS front-door camera enables fire stations to be responsive to “walk-ups” while ensuring that resident personnel are safe and can assess any door-to-door inquiries without undue personal risk. The public gets served – either by someone at the firehouse or indirectly from dispatch – who can mobilize a unit to assist.

Four Real-World Examples of How PURVIS’ Customer-Focused Approach Satisfies Fire Department Needs

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Recently, a number of agencies have chosen PURVIS Systems as their fire station alerting technology provider. PURVIS’s “all-in” commitment to helping dispatch and fire safety professionals decrease call processing times and turnout times is an attribute that has helped the company differentiate itself from other vendors.

Plano, TX Replaces Limited Alerting System

When Plano, TX decided to upgrade its fire station alerting system across all 13 fire stations in the City, they turned to PURVIS. Plano was interested in transmitting alerts over a modern IP network but the City also wanted to leverage its data enabled radio network as a fully redundant means of transmitting alerts to the fire stations. Additionally, Plano wanted to broadcast automated text-to-speech dispatch announcements over radio and as another form of redundancy and automatically tone out the stations via Quick Call alerts. These multiple communication paths maximize the overall system uptime while also leveraging the City’s existing infrastructure.

In the spring of 2015, PURVIS implemented the PURVIS Fire Station Alerting System™ (PURVIS FSAS™) and integrated it with the City’s IP and radio networks to support the multiple types of communications desired by the City. A major plus was PURVIS’s ability to seamlessly integrate the PURVIS FSAS with the department’s TriTech CAD system to streamline dispatch call handling with respect to incident notifications.

In the fire stations, the system consists of new speakers both inside and out of all 13 stations, along with visual displays in the form of message boards, backup UPS, and turnout timers. PURVIS also installed apparatus presence detectors that sense when the apparatus leaves the drive bay and the PURVIS FSAS then logs and timestamps each turnout time. This allows the department to generate accurate turnout time reports for ISO reporting and management.  In addition, PURVIS installed device relays in each fire station that tie into the department’s existing station infrastructure. These relays control and automate the opening of bay doors, appliances, lighting, and more. Working closely with the fire department, PURVIS identified the parameters for activating these relays. For example, if the EMS and Fire crews are all out on incidents, the PURVIS system will shut off gas appliances when it senses that no personnel are in the fire station.

Montgomery County, MD Opts for a Flexible and Tailored FSAS Solution

Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service (MCFRS) operates 43 locations run by two dispatch centers (one primary and one backup). MCFRS required a fire station alerting solution that was flexible to meet its current requirements and scalable to meet any future requirements. Appreciating that PURVIS is multi-faceted and has extensive experience in systems integration, as well as a company that is committed to listening and delivering on its customers’ needs, the department decided to implement the PURVIS FSAS.

After listening to MCFRS and gathering the department’s requirements, PURVIS is implementing a system that is tailored to the County’s needs and will help to streamline the alerting process, reduce call processing times, and reduce turnout times. The system will interface with the County’s Motorola Premier One CAD system.

PURVIS FSAS hardware in the fire stations will include new speakers with volume controls, monitors for visual alerts, turnout timers, printers, strobe lights, night vision lighting and dorm remotes. The latter allows the department to dynamically change how each dorm room is alerted.  For example, if one day a dorm room is used to house an engine company and the next day it is used to house a ladder company, MCFRS personnel can select what type of alerts will be active in that room with the simple push of a button.

One end-result of the implementation is that Montgomery County station personnel will have the ability to prioritize and listen to multiple audio feeds. For example, audio over the dispatch channel can be monitored while also listening to other audio feeds (such as the weather), when higher priority traffic is not present.

Williamson County, TX Evolves to Automated Text-to-Speech Alerts

This multi-jurisdictional agency, consisting of a dispatch center for 13 fire departments and one EMS department, chose PURVIS to upgrade and modernize its fire and EMS alerting system.  PURVIS is implementing the PURVIS FSAS with an interface to the County’s SunGard CAD System for a fully-automated alerting solution. The system allows the County to automatically deliver tone alerts to the fire stations and broadcast automated text to speech alerts/announcements over the County’s existing radio system.  County fire departments have the flexibility to expand their use of the PURVIS FSAS by adding IP-based communications to the fire stations and selecting from a variety of optional PURVIS FSAS audible and visual fire station alerting device types. Departments also have the option of rolling out the PURVIS FSAS Mobile Application to first responders as another means of providing automated alerts.

Harris County Emergency Corps Standardizes Its Alerting Process

Harris County Emergency Corps (HCEC) is a private organization located in Harris County, TX and provides dispatching for 16 departments in the Houston area.  When two of the departments it serves – Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department and Pearland Volunteer Fire Department – wanted automated IP alerting alerts in its stations and audio-over-radio alerts for personnel in the field, HCEC chose PURVIS to make it happen while also standardizing the system and the process that HCEC will use for fire and EMS alerts across all 16 departments.

PURVIS is installing the PURVIS FSAS with an interface to HCEC’s TriTech CAD system. When an incident is dispatched through CAD, the alerting system automatically broadcasts the dispatch alert to the appropriate fire department(s) via an audio broadcast on designated HCEC radio channels/talk groups.  For the Atascocita and Pearland Volunteer Fire Departments, PURVIS is also transmitting IP-based alerts to fire stations to activate a variety of in-station audible and visual devices, such as speakers, monitors, lights, printers, dorm remotes, and more.

PURVIS provides the opportunity for regional agencies, like Harris County Emergency Corps, to design a flexible standard that then makes it easy for the constituent departments to integrate and upgrade, as budgets permit.


By Jeff Mascola, Product Manager, PURVIS Systems

PURVIS To Speak at 2015 FIERO Fire PPE Symposium

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Learn 9 Critical Success Factors When Selecting a Fire Station Alerting System: Join PURVIS at the 2015 F.I.E.R.O. Fire PPE Symposium

When the 2015 FIERO Conference kicks off on September 27, PURVIS will be in attendance as an exhibitor and as a speaker. Since the first Fire Station Design Symposium was hosted in 2000, it’s become a must-attend event for all those who want access to the latest thinking in fire station planning and design. Whether in the planning phase or in the midst of building a new fire station, fire chiefs and architects can learn about the newest equipment and tools at F.I.E.R.O.

This conference affords an excellent opportunity for those early in the station planning process to consider the impact of modern Fire Station Alerting System (FSAS) technologies on station design. Station alerting can be a key element in the design and planning of a new station or department. And oftentimes a new station is a springboard for deploying new technology such as alerting – whether for that station or across an entire department.

There are plenty of reasons a department or station might contemplate a change or implementation of an FSAS, such as:

  • Its existing system may be nearing the end of its useful life
  • Personnel may be struggling with system reliability or integration issues with the current system
  • It wants to add more sophisticated features to the present voice or tones-only system
  • It is facing regional consolidation or expansion into a new station

With that in mind, our F.I.E.R.O. seminar will focus on what we believe are the 9 critical considerations when evaluating station alerting systems. The insights we will share are drawn from PURVIS’ more than  40 years of deployment of technology and services solutions in public safety and defense organizations nationwide, and with specific Fire Station Alerting System installations in Charleston County SC, Plano TX,  Washington DC, FDNY, Boston and others.

The nine critical success factors that should guide selection of a Fire Station Alerting System are:

  1. Reducing response time
  2. Handling multiple modes of communication
  3. Adopting a flexible deployment architecture
  4. Leveraging existing equipment
  5. Minimizing firefighter stress levels
  6. Considering remote personnel
  7. Ensuring high reliability and accessibility
  8. Designed for service first
  9. Using a standards-based approach

Please join us at F.I.E.R.O. in Raleigh, NC as we explore each of these considerations in detail. You’ll come away with a useful rubric for evaluating Fire Station Alerting System technologies in the context of your next fire station design.

You can register for FIERO at: http://www.fierofirestation.com/registration.html.

Article by Rick Foster, Vice President – Public Safety Division, PURVIS Systems 


How Radio Provides a Lifeline to Fire Station Alerting Systems

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First responders can have the best equipment and training, but all that is of no use without clear and timely communications about incidents. While IP networks provide a new and effective communications path, life-critical emergency communications need to consider every contingency. Radio, the staple of emergency communications for generations, has been and continues to be a key element of first responder systems – such as those used for fire station alerting. It’s a reliable way of delivering incident information – both voice and data. In this post, we explore how:

  • Radio can be incorporated into a fire station alerting system (FSAS)
  • Radio communications have evolved
  • PURVIS integrates radio into its FSAS
  • Considerations when selecting an FSAS relative to radio communications

Radio as a primary communications path

Every fire department has evolved their use of radio communications to best suit their needs. As a primary communications path, for instance, a single radio channel is used by some departments for dispatching, or when communicating back to the command center from the scene of an incident. Other departments use multiple radio channels – one channel for dispatch and switch to another channel for operations or tactical purposes, such as reporting while on scene.

Increasingly, counties and municipalities that have consolidated their first responder systems often take advantage of the consolidation initiative to build or leverage an IP-based network path – whether it be fiber-optic, copper, or high-speed cellular. Nevertheless, the likelihood that every station in the district has access to this network is small.  So this primary network strategy can be augmented with the additional ability to handle dispatch for smaller or strictly volunteer-based stations using radio.  This radio channel can be configured to deliver voice as well as the data that is necessary to drive the station alerting devices that may be in place at the station.

With the radio network in place, PURVIS system can send text-to-speech over the air so anyone in the station with a radio will hear it. Any personnel in the field, at home, or in their cars monitoring that dispatch line will also hear the announcement.

Radio as a backup

According to NFPA 1221 two data paths are required. While an IP data path is a good choice for primary communications, a legitimate secondary communications path is audio over radio. In fact, this is a typical use scenario. When the IP network goes down, the FSAS system can bypass the IP network and instead communicate via radio. This makes it possible for the system to remain viable, activating devices at the station, such as the printer and lights.

PURVIS FSAS can send either data, or a voice alert over the radio path. For example, a data modem at the station would use radio frequencies to receive alerts and incident information. In such cases, the FSAS unit at the station would treat radio as an alternative path for the incident data.

What’s the frequency when it comes to Project 25 (P25)?

The P25 standards were largely developed to ensure reliable and interoperable digital radio communications. In essence, P25 is a digital version of analog radio. While communications over analog radio are reliable, the sound quality can suffer due to the signal strength. Sound quality over digital is superior, however, digital transmissions can fail altogether without a strong radio signal. This is not usually a problem in cities with robust infrastructure featuring multiple broadcast points and repeaters that help deliver a strong signal. The PURVIS FSAS provides the option of delivering both audio and data over radio using P25, allowing counties and departments to take advantage of this latest standard. As a result, counties can ensure radio systems communications systems are interoperable within a jurisdiction, or in departments and agencies in the same community.

How PURVIS integrates the various forms of radio into its FSAS

The PURVIS FSAS server interfaces directly with dispatch equipment.  In some scenarios, the system is integrated to a dedicated radio, allowing it to send audio-over-radio alerts to stations and field personnel. If the radio channel (or talk group) is currently in use, the system can detect if the radio channel is busy. In these cases, it delays alerts until the channel is free, so the dispatch center can be certain an alert was sent.

Some jurisdictions use a Telex device/radio gateway with many radios to alert multiple departments or stations. This setup is controlled via a common console. Once the PURVIS FSAS is in place, it can be integrated with the Telex device(s) to dispatch units with the ability to determine if the channel is currently in use.

Charleston County uses the PURVIS FSAS in its multi-jurisdictional dispatch center serving 13 departments and 78 stations over 14 different radio channels. While 72 of the stations are equipped with a data network path, the other six unmanned stations require audio-over-radio communications. The PURVIS system delivers automated text-to-speech to those six stations as the primary alerting path, and sends audio-over-radio to the other 72 stations as the backup. All of this originates from the same dispatch center.


What to look for in a world-class FSAS radio deployment

Not all FSAS are equal when it comes to support for radio communications. With that in mind, seek out a system that:

  • Enables automated communications.
  • Incorporates redundancy and monitoring using the latest technologies to minimize downtime.
  • Supports multiple communication paths – this eliminates the need for personnel to manually select a server for alerting and minimizes timeouts before an alert is sent.
  • Scales easily and affordably because it’s based on non-proprietary hardware.
  • Is provided by a company with the capabilities to integrate the system to suit the department or county’s unique requirements.
  • Supports multiple jurisdictions and their requirements, such as two radio alerting paths out of single dispatch center and alerting multiple departments, or sending a combination of tones so stations hear alerts specific to them.

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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