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High Tech Tool Helps Firefighters Respond Rapidly

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Jan 09 2014 06:29:45 PM AKST
Updated On: Jan 09 2014 06:41:30 PM AKST

High Tech Tool Helps Firefighters Respond Rapidly

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

If you have ever used a paper map before, you know how time consuming it is to find your desired location while driving. 

Until recently, that's exactly how the Anchorage Fire Department had to find house fires or emergencies.

But now with the apparatus status system in place, firefighters are able to get to the city's hot spots quicker than before. 

They happen every day, all over the city, emergencies that the Anchorage Fire Department is on top of. But many don't take into consideration just what it takes for AFD to get to the scene when every second counts.

Over at Fire Station 5, home of the Spenard Fighting Fifth, getting there quickly is more than a priority. Every minute it takes to reach an emergency could be the difference between life and death.

That's why firefighters are glad to have a new system in place that can help them do just that.

The equipment, known as the apparatus status system, is now in all of AFD's rigs. Once an emergency call comes in to dispatch, fire crews all over the city instantly see on screens inside the station what’s going on and where.

Inside their rigs on the way to a blaze, firefighters see the same information, on the same map, keeping everything consistent, accurate, and up-to-date.

For 15-year veteran Captain Sean Fredenhagen, having all that information in one place is crucial. 

On a call just down the road from the station, a person who fell had to be taken to a hospital.  Using the new system’s remote access maps, Fredenhagen and his crew met their goals of getting there on time.  

In the past, they would have had to use a paper map book, while driving, to figure out where they needed to go. A method that would have slowed down their arrival.  

"In the old system you had to hear what the dispatcher said and then turn that into action,” said Fredenhagen. “Whereas with this, we are allowed to see the information more visually."

It's instant communication that reduces mistakes and helps firefighters strategize.

In the case of a big fire, all crews and dispatchers can see where other engines are coming from in town, and how long it will take for them to get to the scene.

"Save property and lives, definitely that's the mission of the fire department and having tools like this on board the truck allows us do our job more efficiently, quickly, and get to where help is needed," said Fredenhagen. 

The Anchorage Fire Department says using the apparatus status system has also reduced radio traffic. Now, instead of trying to find an emergency location, the radio can be used for relaying more critical information. 

The Anchorage Fire Department says it’s all about improving its turnout time, which is the time it takes to actually hear the alarm, get dressed and get out the door. 

Firefighters say that time is about 90 seconds, and they are trying to improve that to 60 seconds. The new system, they say, is helping to do just that, giving them the ability to act and react faster than before.

"All of those elements of time add up to saving lives," said Fredenhagen.