Owensboro-Daviess County 911 dispatch has gone online with a new computer dispatch function that is expected to reduce the time it takes to dispatch responders to fire and medical calls.

City-county 911 Director Paul Nave said the dispatch center tested the system last week and went online with it at 9 a.m. Monday.

The text-to-speech feature is part of a larger upgrade to the 911 Center’s computer-aided dispatch system. Nave said when a call is received, the dispatcher will enter the address, type of call and call code, and the computer will send the alert to responders.

That way, crews are already moving to a medical emergency or fire call while the dispatcher is still gathering information.

“Our enemy is time,” Nave said Monday. “If we can shave 30 seconds off the call on a structure fire, that’s huge.

“Chief (Steve) Mitchell and Chief (Dwane) Smeathers were advocates for the system,” Nave said.

Both Owensboro Fire Department Chief Mitchell and Daviess County Fire Chief Smeathers retired last year. “They wanted this in place to improve the (response) times for their agencies.”

Before the system went online, the goal was to dispatch responders to a medical emergency within 80 seconds of receiving a 911 call. For structure fire calls, the call was to dispatch firefighters in under 1 minute.

The goal is to cut 20 to 30 seconds off those times, Nave said.

The system was purchased out of 911 Center funds and a grant from the state 911 board. The system is being used by dispatch centers across the country.

“It’s the de facto standard,” Nave said. “It gets the call out while the call taker is still gathering information … Instead of gleaning that information in the beginning, we are gleaning that in the middle or end” of the call, while units are already on their way, he said.

The system also has specialized tones to alert responders that the call is for a structure fire, medical emergency or water emergency, Nave said.

“It’s an alert ahead of the announcement, so (responders) know what they are responding to, within reason,” Nave said For example, “if it’s a structure fire, they can get their bunker gear (ready) and not have to wait for the announcement.”

The system is only for fire and medical calls, Nave said.

Agencies using the system have reduced the time it takes to dispatch responders, Nave said. But the improvement isn’t universal because it can be difficult for dispatchers to gather information from a caller in crisis, he said.

“If the caller is hysterical, that delays the time getting (responders) out the door,” he said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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