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A new Tri-City dispatching program will get first responders to you faster

Hear the new automated voice that will be dispatching for Tri-Cities firefighters and paramedics

The Southeast Communications Center is testing a new pre-recorded dispatching system that will help firefighters and paramedics to cut down the time it takes to respond to an emergency.
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The Southeast Communications Center is testing a new pre-recorded dispatching system that will help firefighters and paramedics to cut down the time it takes to respond to an emergency.

For firefighters and paramedics, the difference between “Agate Street” and “a Gate Street” can make the difference in saving a home or a life.

It’s an issue Tri-Cities emergency crews hope to solve when a new dispatching system comes online this spring.

The Southeast Communications Center is testing a new pre-recorded dispatching system.

The system reads out an address in a pre-recorded voice and what units should be heading out that way.

The center — which handles 911 dispatching for area police officers and firefighters — has tested the system for a few weeks.

When it’s finished being set up sometime this spring, each street will have been read by a person and sound exactly the same when it comes over the air.

That cuts out the possibility of mishearing or misunderstanding how a dispatcher might pronounce street names or words.

It’s a big help for firefighters listening to where they need to go at the same time they’re getting dressed and ready to leave the fire station, Pasco Fire Chief Bob Gear said.

Pasco is shouldering most of the system’s $400,000 cost. The fire department started looking at the system earlier this decade as a way to cut down the time it takes to respond to an emergency.

Pasco Fire Bob Gear
Pasco Fire Chief Bob Gear says a new prerecorded dispatching system will shave time from Tri-City first responder dispatch times. File Tri-City Herald

While they initially planned for it to go in Franklin County’s dispatch center, they delayed it until the merger with the Benton County center was finished.

How does this help

There are three basic parts to responding to an emergency, officials told the Herald.

  1. How long it takes for firefighters to process a call.

  2. How long it takes for the firefighters to get out the door.

  3. How long it takes to drive to the emergency.

Gear said the only way to cut time from the last one is by building a new fire station. The new software can help solve the first two.

Along with buying the recording system, fire departments can install reader boards and other equipment that will display where they’re being dispatched.

When they’re combined with a consistent pronunciation, Gear is hoping to trim minutes.

“If we cut two minutes off of a six-minute response time, that’s a significant improvement,” Gear said.

Dispatcher01.jpg
Inside the Southeast Communications Center. Noelle Haro-Gomez

The program has already helped in Spokane County, he said.

Before installing it, they processed less than half of their calls in under a minute and a half. That dropped to getting more than 90 percent of their calls processed in under a minute, he said.

It will make it easier for the dispatchers as well, who are juggling multiple emergencies, sometimes while talking with the person on the phone, said Kim Lettrick, the center manager.

The software from Colorado-based Locution Systems Inc. removes the need to put all of that on hold while they dispatch first responders.

“We can be using that time to finish that conversation,” she said. “It’s just a better, more efficient use of our time.”

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.
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