Cedar Park launches dispatch system to improve response times


by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News and Photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE


Posted on October 23, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 23 at 7:20 PM

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- In an emergency every second counts from the 911 call, to the dispatcher, and then out to each agency and crew on call. Each step takes up vital moments. Cedar Park is now cutting down that time. Their goal is reach national response time recommendations.

"Right now our overall for last year was 9:07," said Cedar Park Fire Chief James Mallinger.

Chief Mallinger says the goal is to decrease response times to eight minutes for a fire call and six minutes for a medical call.

On Wednesday the City unveiled a new dispatch system. It’s designed to keep call times short.

"That can be very trying because you either have to put the person on hold, nobody likes to be on hold when you're in an emergency," said Sara Wright, communications and records supervisor with the City of Cedar Park.

With the new system in place, those moments on hold are now gone. The system frees up the dispatcher so that they can continue talking with the caller. Once the dispatcher enters the address, nature of the call and the basic information about what's happening, the system will automatically determine what types of crews are needed. A computerized voice and tone will play out to crews on patrol. At fire stations lights automatically flash warnings, and messages go out on computer screens so crews know if there's a potential hazard such as gas lines or chemicals in a building.

"You can't memorize every building in town and where everything is, so it gives them a very quick reference point," explained Chief Mallinger.

For police the new system lets officers check a license plate number and write up reports directly from their cars.

"Before we had to contact dispatch and have them run that information and have them pull it off and come back to the station," said Cedar Park Police Captain Darlene Lewis.

Expectations are high. Cedar Park modeled its system after one in San Antonio. Mallinger says response time there cut in half when the new system launched.

Cedar Park says it will also improve their ability to assist neighboring agencies. Williamson County, Georgetown and Round Rock already use a similar dispatch program. Soon Mallinger says they can all exchange information.