Fire Dispatch Changes

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

December 29, 2006

For the last 30 years, if you called 911 from Charlottesville to report a fire in the city, your call was dispatched from the fire station on Ridge Street.

But starting next Tuesday at 7AM, that's all going to change.

That's when every emergency call for a fire in Albemarle County, on grounds at UVA, or in the city will come through the 911 call center on Ivy Road.

"Everyone involved will know exactly what's going on, and there's less chance of someone not getting information or information not being passed on," explained Tom Hanson, the Director of Emergency Communication.

Currently, when a fire call comes in from the city, it's answered at the center on Ivy Road, then the call is sent to Ridge Street where it's then dispatched.

But with the more streamlined setup, Ridge Street is eliminated. A call will come in and be dispatched immediately from Ivy Road.

It will save time, and help prevent mis-communication between multiple dispatch locations.

"When you've got two separate operations, you're constantly trying to pass information back and forth, occasionally things get lost," said Hanson.

"We're going to have a seamless operation in dispatches between police, fire, and EMS," said Charles Werner, a Charlottesville Fire Chief. "That information is quickly exchanged between all the dispatchers."

What will soon be the only call center, features touch screen computers. And transferring calls and dialing numbers takes just a click of the mouse.

"Technology changes. I don't want to say daily, but it seems that way," said Hanson. "We're constantly trying to stay on top of technology changes."

The new setup has already been tested, and the switch-over is expected to be seamless.

Fire officials are calling the change a win-win situation.

"It's better service, saving money, and a much safer environment for our firefighters and the citizens that we serve," said Werner.

By having just one call and dispatch center, the city expects to save $100,000. And no employees are losing their jobs in the transition.

Earlier this year the emergency crews also upgraded their scanners from analog to digital to improve radio communication between the city and the county.

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