Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services Reduces Response Times with FDM Software

Each time the phone rings at Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services Central Communications Unit, call takers and dispatchers must be prepared for the worst. Using the Computer-Aided Dispatch System (CAD), dispatchers must provide responding units with specific information about the geographic areas in addition to known site details. If this information is inaccurate, the outcome could be disastrous. Dispatchers must be able to assess the situation, dispatch the appropriate crews and apparatus and determine if other resources will be immediately required.

“Our communications staff are the link between the department and the public we serve,” says Chief Brian Bentley. “Time and information is critical from when an emergency call is received to when the responding apparatus roll out of the fire halls.” With that in mind, the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services decided to look into replacing their existing CAD system in the fall of 2006 and by January of 2008, the department was live with FDM Software’s integrated Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management System (RMS).

FDM CAD is a full-featured system that allows quick and accurate Fire and Emergency Medical Services dispatch while FDM RMS enables streamlined data entry and effective information management. The two systems are completely integrated giving the dispatchers single-click access to related information such as property, contact and hazmat details for effective pre-arrival preparation and fire fighter safety.

“The more we know about what we will find at an incident, the more effectively we can respond with everyone’s safety as a top priority, including our own,” says Assistant Chief Bob Fawcett. This is especially important for incidents that involve obscure chemicals that require specialized knowledge to handle. FDM CAD alerts firefighters with the type, quantity and location of any hazardous materials at a property and includes the appropriate description from the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). Additional alerts include vital information such as the presence of a guard dog or structural concerns, response zone alerts such as low water pressure in the hydrants and street alerts such as a roads blocked due to construction.

With so much information at the dispatcher’s finger tips, FDM’s user-friendly interface makes it easy for dispatchers to verify, enter or update as required. “FDM CAD is much more reliable than the previous CAD we used,” says Fawcett. “It is very user-friendly and speeds up our dispatching process significantly.”

One of the biggest time savers for the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services is that the system automatically recommends units for dispatch. During implementation, communications staff entered the data and rules required to match the system behaviour to the department’s dispatch policies. This information ensures that FDM CAD automatically selects the correct units for an incident. Specific call types can have pre-defined responses making the whole process more efficient. “The system’s automatic response recommendation has been hugely beneficial to us in terms of efficiency,” claims Fawcett.

In an article that was published in the StarPhoenix in January 2008, Chief Bentley mentioned that areas which exceeded the four minute maximum such as the University of Saskatchewan campus and neighborhoods on the fringe of the City were among the locations that would benefit from a more accurate system. “Because FDM CAD identifies out-of-town calls quicker and more accurately than our previous system, we were able to reduce our response times to these locations and others. FDM CAD is a much more manageable system, adaptable to our specific needs in those response areas,” states Bentley.

In addition to the CAD’s advanced features and functionality, the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services chose FDM specifically for its reporting and records management capabilities. “We can now give a more complete report to Council,” says Fawcett, “and if Council needs the report broken down to specific areas, FDM’s integrated CAD and RMS enables us to provide this information in a timely fashion. All dispatchers can now provide any report that is requested and can do so quickly and consistently.”

“FDM RMS is capable of providing statistics from incidents throughout a given time period,” adds Fawcett. “We can generate results by address search, date range, dispatch type, incident type, incident number, by shift or for EMS calls, by patient contact. Because it is easier to generate reports, any short coming is identified and if changes are required, we can easily update the protocol.”

When it comes to technical support for their FDM system, the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services have been very satisfied with the quality of the service they have received. “Whenever we have questions, problems or concerns, our FDM Administrator is the best in the business. He is always available, has an excellent response time and provides good communication back to us if he has to investigate something he has not encountered before,” says Fawcett. “The training our Administrator received from FDM was invaluable and his quick turnaround is a direct result of FDM’s exceptional technical support. The biggest advantage of this approach is having local support available 24/7 capable of in-house repairs.”

In addition to providing a proven product and exceptional technical support and customer service, FDM offers value-added services that the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services are looking to leverage. “We are just preparing to send our FDM Administrator and some dispatchers to our first Regional User Group meeting,” says Fawcett. “We plan to make this an ongoing practice where the Administrator and at least one dispatcher will attend. Our first FDM Education Conference was very impressive and we will also continue to attend that annual event.”

The Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services receives and processes more than 100,000 calls each year. Twelve dispatchers work in shifts around the clock to maintain a high standard of response in emergencies and now with the help of FDM Software, that standard is even higher.