February 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm #154078
An article in GCN reported that texting is beginning to replace radio in 21st century emergency dispatches.
“Radio is reliable, but it’s not,” said Mark Mordecki, a firefighter with the Farmington, N.M., Fire Department, who manages the 911 transcript processing system. Radio transmissions can be hard to hear or understand and the airwaves can be crowded. “We’ve got 16 agencies on the same dispatch channel. When there are multiple calls, you have to wait minutes to get on the radio.”
The text messages are sent out via a computer dispatch, directly to the firefighter’s cell phone. While texting has been used as a fringe alternative to sending dispatches for a couple of years, it has only recently emerged as a mainstream channel of communication from the stations to officers.
Not only is this alternative more reliable, but it is also cost effective. Because text messaging is so cheap, it is simple to mass text everyone in the department. It also allows off-duty members to receive updates.
What do you think of this shift in technology? Is it safe for emergency dispatches to rely on cell phones?
February 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm #154080
This is all great, until the technology takes a nose dive.
I’m not a Luddite, and I do think that these newer methods have a place in the fire service, but, the reality is that cell networks, internet connections, and fiber optic infrastructure can be unreliable in a catastrophic event (despite what the carriers may want you to believe). Two-way radio is dead simple, relies on lightweight infrastructure, and will continue to be the only reliable means of communications in an emergency.
For an example of what can happen to even the most modern infrastructure, you can read about my experiences supporting our local emergency response organizations during a deliberate fiber cut in California’s Silicon Valley in 2009:
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