Is automating 911 calls the answer to slow emergency response times?

— It took the Jamesville Volunteer Fire Department 13 minutes to respond to a burning vehicle with a man trapped inside, according to a story on Syracuse.com today. In the meantime, paid DeWitt firefighters say they could have responded in 6 minutes, but were not called to the fire.

The issue is similar to one The Eagle addressed earlier this year in the article "Automation Station: Automated response plans can take the politics out of picking mutual aid responders, but so far only one department has made the switch."

In June, the Camillus Fire Department, another volunteer outfit, announced it had fully-automated all structure fire calls through the Onondaga County 911 system.

Scott Binns, chief of the Camillus Fire Department, said his department switched over to using the county 911 center’s Computer-Aided Dispatch system for all structure fire alarms, making the department the first to rely on the CAD system to determine mutual aid for all structure fire calls.

The county's CAD system is capable of fully automating all emergency calls for all of the volunteer departments, not just structure fires.

But as Carl Loerzel, deputy commissioner of the Department of Emergency Communications, pointed out, the closest department could also be one without sufficient staffing to respond to a call.

Loerzel said risk factors, like being short-staffed during certain times, can be built into a department’s response plan in CAD, but that can be tedious if the changes are frequent or irregular.

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