New GPS technology helps Portland Fire & Rescue respond faster

KPTV photo.

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - When you’re a first responder, every second can mean the difference between life or death.

“It comes down to a matter of seconds,” Lt. Tommy Schroeder with Portland Fire and Rescue said.

That’s why Lt. Schroeder said emergency response times are so crucial.

“In our strategic plan, one of our goals was to implement something called AVL for using GPS to dispatch our units, so that the actual closest unit was going to an emergency,” Schroeder said.

AVL or Automatic Vehicle Location started rolling out in spring of 2017.

“Aside from a few programming glitches, it worked great,” Schroeder said.

Now, the system is in full swing.

As dispatchers take calls, AVL looks at the top ten closest crews and trucks.

“And then it sends that list up to the dispatcher, it automatically fills with the number one choice and automatically goes up that way, so it’s polling all of our units at the time the call was created,” Schroeder said. “It’s taking the judgement out of the dispatchers, the firefighters, and we go.”

 Before AVL, Schroeder said fire crews stayed in their district for the most part, even if it meant a crew from another district was technically closer to a call.

“The computer couldn’t tell if you were going all the way across your district,” Schroeder said.

Since switching over to AVL, Schroeder said he doesn’t have clear cut numbers just yet, but he knows their response times are faster.

“Between BOEC, the dispatchers here, it automates that process for them,” he said. “It allows them to select the most appropriate quickest response for us and allows us to do our job, which is to provide emergency services as quickly as possible and as appropriately as possible.”

Portland Fire and Rescue is currently working on another system that will link them with other fire agencies in other counties. For example, say there’s a big fire in Multnomah County but a crew in Clackamas is technically closer, it can automatically call them to help out.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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