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McDonnell Computer Will Install Huntington Beach Dispatch System

Times Staff Writer

McDonnell Douglas Computer Systems Co., a Santa Ana subsidiary of the defense and aerospace conglomerate, said Thursday that it has been chosen by the city of Huntington Beach to install a computerized fire and emergency medical dispatch system for $2.7 million.

Company President Willard J. Freeman said the computer-aided-dispatch market has emerged as McDonnell Douglas Computer Systems’ most rapidly growing business. He estimated that the market for the product doubled last year to $100 million. The company has sold about 40 similar systems around the country.

Huntington Beach Fire Chief Ray Picard said the new system should reduce the time it takes fire, police and medical crews to reach an emergency by at least 25%. Installation should be completed by July, he said.

The system should prove particularly effective in deploying emergency services during periods of heavy calling, such as during a flood. The system is designed to have help on the way within 20 seconds of the first call and within 60 seconds of all subsequent calls, Picard said.

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The McDonnell Douglas system will be tied into the 911 emergency telephone system.

In response to a fire, for instance, the 911 operator would, at the push of a button, alert the Fire Department, where a buzzer would sound. A computer screen at the Fire Department would instantly display the location of the person reporting the emergency, plus any information that the 911 receiver takes down.

Currently, the 911 operator must telephone the Police or Fire Department, which in turn must take the operator’s information. This process is more time-consuming, particularly if the calls back up, Picard said.

“There’s a big difference between a response time of 1 minute and 2 minutes when your house is on fire, or when you’re not breathing,” Picard said.

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The Fire Department experienced its worst backlog in responding to emergency calls during a flood in the mid-1970s, Picard said. During a 12-hour period, the department was overwhelmed by 713 calls.

McDonnell Douglas Computer Systems, which employs about 1,000 people, designs and manufactures a variety of computer hardware and software products. Among its products is the hardware for McDonnell Douglas Corp.'s Tymnet system, the widely used global computer communications network.

Formerly Micro Data, McDonnell Douglas Computer has been in Orange County since its founding 16 years ago. McDonnell Douglas acquired the company in 1984. It has manufacturing facilities in Santa Ana and in Great Britain.


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