Local news

Computer voice helps dispatchers get info to fire crews faster

Spokane fire dispatcher Linda Hendrix, shown Thursday, likes the new automated voice feature being tested by her department. When Hendrix takes a call, she asks five questions, then activates an automated voice that reads the address over the radio to get firefighters and EMTs en route. It is estimated that the technology can save 15-30 seconds of response time. (Jesse Tinsley)
Spokane fire dispatcher Linda Hendrix, shown Thursday, likes the new automated voice feature being tested by her department. When Hendrix takes a call, she asks five questions, then activates an automated voice that reads the address over the radio to get firefighters and EMTs en route. It is estimated that the technology can save 15-30 seconds of response time. (Jesse Tinsley)

The voice of a woman dispatching Spokane-area fire crews last week was strong, steady and confident.

The voice was coming from a computer.

In an effort to speed up dispatch times, the Spokane Fire Department is employing new technology to send fire crews to emergency calls more quickly.

Dispatchers will no longer have to put emergency callers on hold to send out calls.

Instead, they will simply enter commands into the computer-aided dispatch system and the computer will generate the instructions needed to get crews moving.

The computer voice add-on was tested last week to iron out the kinks. It is expected to go fully online Aug. 8.

“This is going to be a huge improvement,” said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

The voice, taken from recordings of a real human voice, is distinct and easy to understand, which helps crews avoid confusion, he said.

The city is seeking to keep dispatch times to less than one minute, and the computer voice system is expected to save about 30 seconds.

“The biggest plus of this is we are going to get people out there faster,” said dispatch Lt. Vickie Broom.

When the call first comes in, a dispatcher asks several basic questions, including location and the nature of the complaint.

As the basics are established, the dispatcher enters them into a computer and then pushes a button to send out the voice-generated dispatch.

As additional details are gathered, the dispatcher enters them into the computer system, which transmits the information to interactive screens onboard fire engines.

The dispatcher will maintain constant voice contact and provide direction to callers for handling the crisis.

As firefighters race to the scene, they watch their computers to prepare for arrival.

The city dispatchers are located in a combined communications center just east of Spokane Community College. The center operated by the city dispatches for county fire districts as well.

The building, which also houses 911 and police and sheriff dispatchers, is equipped with a huge room full of computers, wires and backup equipment.

The voice dispatch system was approved by the City Council last November in a contract with Locution Systems Inc. of Golden, Colo.

Night work closes U.S. 395

U.S. Highway 395 north of Wandermere is going to be shut down each night this week and traffic detoured onto Wandermere Road.

The closures will be from 7 p.m. until about 5 a.m. each night starting tonight.

The contractor needs space along the highway to work on connections between the North Spokane Corridor and U.S. 395.

Sullivan, Indiana paving starting

A project to repave the intersection of Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue gets started today and will continue for about six weeks.

A new eastbound right turn lane from Sullivan onto Indiana is also being added to the intersection.

Sullivan will be reduced to a single lane in each direction and east-west crossings on Indiana will be shut down or limited during the work.

Drivers are encouraged to use Evergreen Road to access Indiana in the vicinity of the Spokane Valley Mall.

The interchange at Sullivan and I-90 will remain open.

Drivers can sign up for traffic alerts regarding the project at spokanevalley.org.

City officials urged residents to continue patronizing businesses in the area to help them avoid financial hardship as a result of construction.

Construction restricts I-90 travel

Work to repair old pavement east of Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 gets under way tonight and continues through Friday. Traffic will be reduced to a single lane in each direction from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. each day between Price Creek and Easton Hill.

Rock blasting will close I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass from 8 to 9 p.m. tonight through Friday.



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