Firefighters get jump start on emergencies

With the switch of a color-coded light, Glendale firefighters will now get a jump start on emergency calls before leaving the station.

The new system, installed in Glendale fire stations at the end of November, sends out a digitalized voice message and signals with a color-coded light, alerting specific fire personnel to the type of equipment needed to respond to a particular emergency, officials said.

“The bottom line goal is to get the folks out the door quicker,” said Don Wise, the Verdugo Fire Communications Center’s executive administrator.

Variations of the system were also installed at eight fire agencies throughout the region, including 28 fire stations that receive dispatching services from the center, he said.

Glendale Battalion Chief Greg Godfrey said his agency has already seen decreases in response times.

Some agencies have reported a 30- to 45-second improvement in response time, which fire officials said can be vital for residents in need of life-saving services.

Fire officials have said the Glendale Fire Department's average response time to a fire is 5 minutes, 6 seconds and 4 minutes, 20 seconds for medical calls.

Before the system was installed, a 911-operator would need to send an emergency call to a radio dispatcher who would need to review it before sending out the appropriate units. Meanwhile, all available fire personnel would need to begin preparing for the call.

Under the new program, the Computer Aided Dispatch system reviews the call before the dispatcher sees it, recommends certain units for response and sends the information to the fire stations, so the firefighters can start getting ready.

The recommendation comes in the form of a colored light — red for fire engines, blue for ambulances, green for fire trucks, white for battalion chiefs and yellow for specialty apparatus.

Moments later, dispatchers provide details about the call to firefighters, who are already prepared to respond.

Fire officials are also hoping the system helps improve their personnel’s stress level, which elevates with every call, Godfrey said. Knowing that certain units will have to respond to a call will allow other firefighters to continue with their tasks without getting anxious.

The color-coded system hasn’t been installed at all of the Verdugo-area stations because it was a grant-funded project that required matching funds, Godfrey said.

“Everybody is in a financial crisis and some of the cities couldn’t come up with the matching funds,” he said.

Still, Godfrey said some of the stations do receive an alert that notifies them of an emergency call without the colored lights.

The Glendale Fire Department’s system was funded through a $1.6-million federal grant and also partially funded through Brown and Brown Riding Insurance Services and the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company's $60,000 grant.

Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) played a significant role in Glendale’s ability to acquire funds for the pre-alert system.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World