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Sandy fire stations to undergo first system upgrade in 30 years

Thursday, June 27, 20131137 views

In an emergency, even a few seconds can be the difference between life and death. Using a new automated dispatch system, the Sandy City Fire Department hopes to shave around 40 seconds off its response time, protecting the lives of both the public and emergency responders.

“It will get our people on the road earlier because it’s electronic,” said Fire Chief Don Rosenkrantz.

The Phoenix II is a state-of-the-art dispatch system being installed in a number of Salt Lake Valley fire stations, including Sandy stations, in the coming months.

Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Cline said the change is taking place because the main Salt Lake City dispatch center, where all emergency calls from the public are routed to, is undergoing a software upgrade, forcing all stations that use its services to do the same. Cline’s goal is to have the system ready to go by the end of summer.

“We’re working on trying to get it installed in July or August. When we go to that final switchover, it will just be a matter of turning it on,” Cline said.

The system upgrade will be the first Sandy stations have had in nearly 30 years, Rosenkrantz said. It will get responders on the road faster, but it will also be better for their health.

When the current system wakes up firefighters in the middle of the night, it uses loud sirens that “get your heart going 100 miles per hour,” he said. The Phoenix II has more gentle tones, and will use LED lights that come on gradually, rather than suddenly.

“It’s a more kind and gentle alert,” Rosenkrantz said. “It’s better for (responders’) heart and mental fatigue.”

In the past five years, the station’s current dispatch system has never completely gone down, but the fire department has had to deal with a number of minor problems, including the replacement of a transmitter box near Granite Flats. If an emergency such as an earthquake occurred and the current system went down, there would be no method for stations to communicate, Rosenkrantz said.

The Phoenix II  has a built-in redundancy, meaning it uses the Internet and radio to send out a call. This would prevent the system from ever going down, Cline said.

“It has an automated dispatch...Once the call goes out, the computer will automatically alert the crews,” Cline said. “It doesn’t have to be transferred by a human being.”

The total cost of the replacement is estimated to be around $250,000. Some may see the cost as steep, but Rosenkrantz said the response to the new announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s generally understood that this is an upgrade that has been needed for a long time, he said.

“Everybody is so happy,” he said. “It has surprised me quite a bit.”

Cline said the upgrade will save lives, making the high price tag nothing more than an afterthought.

“It’s worth the amount that’s going to take to make it happen,” he said.

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