Seattle fired up over new Web feature
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Nov 05, 2000
When a 911 call is phoned in to the Seattle Fire Department, not only can
it be heard over a scanner, but now it also can be seen on the World Wide
The metropolitan fire department has launched a new service through its
Web site (www.cityofseattle.net/fire) listing near-real-time emergency
fire dispatches. On the site, people can see the exact time a call was received,
the address where units were sent, which fire and rescue units were dispatched,
and what kind of emergency was occurring, such as an automobile fire, medic
response or residential alarm.
Leonard Roberts, the fire department's management information systems
director, said the Web site was created mainly as a service to the news
media. He said although most media organizations have scanners to monitor
emergency calls, they might miss the call's location and other pertinent
In such situations, the department's dispatchers and public information
officer have to field up to 25 calls from media organizations within the
first few minutes of an emergency. That takes up valuable time for the dispatchers,
"We have not increased our staff to do dispatching in 15 years, but
the call volume has doubled. That's kind of why we're looking at different
ways to be efficient," he said.
The program for the Web listing of emergency calls was written in-house
at no extra cost, Roberts said. When dispatchers receive a call, they use
a computer-assisted dispatching system to create an incident report and
send a response. The system then sends the information to the fire stations
as well as to a server where someone using the Web site could access it.
Roberts said it takes about one to three minutes for a call to show up on
the Web after it is phoned in.
Information on the site can also help the Coast Guard, the Red Cross
or trauma centers prepare to help people involved in major incidents, such
as a three- or four-alarm fire, he said.
The city's fire department, which has about 1,000 firefighters and 100 civilian
workers, receives about 80,000 calls each year. Of those calls, about 15
are considered major incidents.