The Chesterton Fire Department (CFD) has been given the go-ahead to seek a 90/10 match grant for the purchase and installation of a digital station-alerting system at the CFD station.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant is being made available by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Portage Assistant Fire Chief Kevin DeYoung is coordinating the grant application on behalf of the Portage and South Haven FDs, Porter County EMS, the Porter County 911 Dispatch Center, and now the CFD.
At its meeting Jan. 11, the Chesterton Town Council voted unanimously to commit funding for the grant match. The estimated cost of purchasing and installing a station-alerting system at the CFD, according to Interim Fire Chief Eric Camel: $56,386.56. A 90/10 grant would cut the CFD’s cost share to $5,638.66.
Currently the Porter County 911 Center uses an 800 MHz radio system to dispatch fire departments and EMS responders. That system, however, requires a dispatcher to communicate verbally, and separately, with responding agencies in turn, call by call, even when multiple agencies are being dispatched to the same call. The result can be call-stacking and a delay in response when seconds count, Camel said.
A station-alerting system, on the other hand, uses an IP network to communicate with responding agencies, said Anthony Stua, director of the Porter County 911 Dispatch Center. Even as a 911 caller is speaking with a dispatcher, the dispatcher is in-putting the caller’s information into the system. The dispatcher then activates the system, which communicates with an agency’s existing computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software, alerting the agency instantaneously and multiple agencies simultaneously.
Among the advantages of a station-alerting system is its customizability, DeYoung said. Alerts can be sent via wired and wireless links, with firefighters and EMTs receiving the alert by text or phone. Different tones and/or signal lights within the station, and within different zones of the station, can be set for different types of calls. Tones can also be “ramped” to reduce firefighters’ stress, and the checklist of out-the-door tasks—like the opening of bay doors and the activation of exhaust systems—can be automated.
“The station alerting system would create a redundant system to help standardize dispatch and decrease out-the-door response times,” Camel said. “The alerting system works on both a hard-wire and a radio transmission to alert the department of a call. It helps to improve communication to the fire department(s), which then improves the level of service to our citizens.”
“No one wants an emergency but if you have to have one, getting assistance ASAP is critically important,” Camel added. “The station alerting system is beneficial to everyone from the dispatch center to the fire department to our citizens. It helps to reduce dispatch time when multiple calls occur at once, reduce human error, and enhance communication to all involved. I would like to thank Portage Fire for taking the lead on this endeavor.”