Paging system should speed BFD response

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Within the near future the Brookhaven Fire Department will belowering its already quick response time even more by changing theway firefighters are called to a fire.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Dustin Bairfield said911 dispatchers are now ready to begin paging out BFD through aseries of tones that are sent to their radios rather than throughthe fire phone system that is currently set up.

Under the current system, there must be someone available toanswer the phone at the stations at all times. Under a pagingsystem, the call would be sent directly to radios worn by thefirefighters.

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“It will cut down on response time, and it should help bycutting out having to go through the phone system,” said Bairfield.”The call goes from 911 straight out over the radio so they’ll getstraight from dispatch, rather than having to be patchedthrough.”

Bairfield said it will also help eliminate much of the chance ofhuman error.

“The dispatcher is actually looking at the screen with calllocation on it, and that alone helps cut down on human error,” hesaid. “That way they’re not repeating the wrong numerics oraddress. It helps since there’s not a relay, instead of having tocall the fire department or the police department if the firedepartment is out, the dispatcher can just hit the button and tonethem out and tell them where the fire is.”

The system is the same one the county’s volunteer firefightershave been using for a while.

Lincoln County Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey said theannexation took a big toll on communications for BFD. The new areais too big for the handheld radios they were using to communicatewith the other trucks and the station.

“Right now the city’s radio system is stressed to try to coverthe new annexed area, and the way it’s set up now someone has to beclose to the phone all the time to get the calls,” said Galey. “Sowhen we get this all set up then calls will come in on 911 andthey’ll be paged out like the volunteers are and they don’t have tobe tied to the phone. It’ll eliminate a lot of double talking.”

Brookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts said he had been working withGaley and Bairfield to get the system up and running. He said he’sexcited about the fact that if one of his trucks is called to thefar reaches of the county for a Jaws of Life run, they’ll actuallybe able to communicate with the stations.

“The communication will be far better because we’ll be on thenorth repeater, which is countywide,” said Watts. “Right now we’rebarely able to talk inside the city. I don’t see how there couldnot be an advantage to this.”

Bairfield said the capability will also be there to usedifferent frequencies for the firefighters to talk to each otherduring an incident as well.

“Each fire truck or captain or person in charge monitors thesheriff’s office net, but the guys in house and fighting fires cantalk to each other for their own safety,” he said. “As far aseveryone being paged out and knowing what’s going on, it should cutdown on confusion.”

Both Watts and Bairfield said the fire department radios wouldhave to be reprogrammed, which Watts said should happen sometimethis week or next. Once that is done, the system will be tested,then BFD will be ready to roll with the new paging system.

“We’ll just have to see if there are any disadvantages to this,but I don’t anticipate any,” said Watts. “And eventually we’ll beable to phase out the fire phone.”