Tracking Tampa Fire Rescue

Thursday, October 31

The GPS lets dispatchers track fire units faster.
A new global positioning system is helping Tampa Fire Rescue respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently. The GPS allows dispatchers to keep better track of units in the field.

Dispatcher Mayra Uhlig says she took the very first call when fire engulfed an apartment complex under construction in Ybor City a few years ago. She says at the time finding available fire rescue units to send was tough because the dispatch radio was jammed with calls. "It was constantly units walking on top of each other and covering each other with their transmissions," said Uhlig.

Now, with the new GPS, she doesn't have to radio units to find out where they are. The system automatically tracks units and displays their location on a computer screen. Now, dispatchers can call the unit closest to the emergency faster.

Captain Bruce Torrens says the call is displayed in the fire truck. "Now they can just look at the screen and say, 'Hey, engine seven is right there. Let's dispatch them.' We're getting on scene quicker and we're able to do our job a lot quicker," explained Torrens. [See the attached file]
The new system locates fire trucks more efficiently.

By tracking units automatically, the system also cuts down on radio traffic. Also, if firefighters are called to an area that they're unfamiliar with, they can call the dispatcher and the system can help guide them to where they need to go."

However, Rescue Chief Bruce Savage admits there are some problems the system can't solve. He says, "We still have our old nemesis, the infrastructure and traffic. We can still only go as fast as the traffic allows."

Tampa Fire Rescue says the new system cost nearly $250,000. It was paid for with an emergency medical services grant from the state. The money is raised through fees collected from traffic tickets.

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