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Austin Fire Department pushes for quicker emergency dispatch times

Local firefighters are working to speed up their dispatch times during larger emergencies.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: This story has been edited throughout for clarity.

Whether it's a tornado, wildfire or major crash, local firefighters are working to speed up their dispatch times during big emergencies.

Travis and Williamson County firefighters are using a new system, Tellus, that saves time when every second is crucial.

The system consists of one local database that shares information with the computers within participating dispatch centers. The system allows emergency teams to locate where an incident happened and find nearby fire units that would be able to respond despite which city the incident occurs in. 

There are 16 departments across Travis and Williamson counties participating, including the cities of Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Georgetown and Leander, as well as several Emergency Services Districts (ESDs). The City of Cedar Park said that in order to participate, a department must have fully-staffed stations. 

There are five dispatch centers, or dispatch points, across Travis and Williamson counties.

Locally, Tellus is being used strictly for all priority 1 fire and medical calls. Chief James Mallinger with the Cedar Park Fire Department said this helps dispatch centers send fire trucks in a matter of seconds while, before the new system, it would take minutes, and time is crucial in emergency response.

"If you have a structure fire, dumpster fire that's near a structure, or have anyone needing CPR or a major medical call, that's when we would send the closest appropriate unit. The patch on our shirts no longer matters, you're going to get whichever fire truck is closest to you that can handle that emergency," Mallinger said.

Mallinger said that, because Tellus is so new, they haven't run any data on the efficiency of it yet. The departments are doing their first month of data review right now to ensure that the database is doing what it's intended to do.

The partnership between all dispatch centers for the 16 participating fire departments could expand out to other departments in the future but, for now, all participating cities and ESDs are happy with having Tellus as an extra tool to help the community when dispatching priority one emergency calls.


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