Throughout history, the fire service has placed significant emphasis on speed, using propagation models as justification for shaving seconds off response times wherever and however possible. After all, the conflagration that we're rushing to is getting geometrically larger as we speak, so there's no...
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That minute also ticks by when non-English-speaking callers are involved. Many facilities patch into translation services to acquire basic information. However, particulars must be repeated between all parties involved until the telecommunicator has enough to dispatch. Some 911 centers maintain bilingual employees, but in areas serving diverse ethnic populations, it is virtually impossible to cover every dialect in-house. Again, foreign language calls are on the rise, as is the use of Emergency Fire Dispatching (EFD) protocols, which can in some cases sacrifice time in favor of better decision making. Even without EFD, questions like "The car is in the garage and that's in the basement?" take time, as does entering them into a computer-aided dispatching (CAD) system and pulling up the proper recommendation.
While procedures should be in place to expedite the dispatch of true emergencies, taking the time to get it — and get it right — creates no more delay than the few seconds "lost" by an engine stopping at a red light. Sending the right resources to the right place with the right information should always be our standard. Firefighter safety is not a game of beat the clock.
BARRY FUREY, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is director of the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center in North Carolina. During his 35-year public safety career, he has managed 911 centers and served as a volunteer fire officer in three other states. In 2002, Furey chaired the Association of Public-safety Communications Officials (APCO) International conference in Nashville, TN, and in 2005 he received an APCO life membership for his continued work in emergency communications.