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Fighting fires gets high-tech upgrade

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City paramedics and firefighters in Columbus soon will have the same online resources provided to police and deputies to assist and protect them at an emergency.

Both city and county officials have approved an agreement that will put computers in city fire trucks. The new system will enable fire department personnel to receive detailed information from a computer-aided public safety dispatch program.

The system, produced by the Orlando-based SunGard Corp., is maintained at the Bartholomew County 911 Emergency Operations Center, center director Ed Reuter said.

Firefighters will benefit from the system’s technological features, which Reuter outlined for the county commissioners Monday. They include:

Real-time tracking of all emergency vehicles

More accurate response times

A reduction of radio and phone traffic

Real-time data exchanges

Multiple-jurisdiction support for stronger information sharing

Knowledge of stored chemicals, utility shutoffs and exits in a building

History of emergency calls that might show structurally compromised locations or indicate suspected criminal activity

For example, firefighters would know in advance if a blaze has erupted in a location where methamphetamine manufacturing is suspected, so precautions can be taken, Reuter said.

“The bottom line is that it’s going to be for the safety of firefighters, just as it is for law enforcement,” Reuter said.

In addition to city and county officers, ambulances with Columbus Regional Hospital also are connected to the computer-aided public safety program.

“We’re the last (public safety) department in the county to become a part of this,” Fire Chief Dave Allmon said. “Better communication is the main issue we’re looking at between dispatchers and ourselves.”

SunGard is charging $45,797 to bring the fire department on board with other first-responders, Columbus Clerk-Treasurer Luann Welmer said.

However, with the purchase of hardware and the expense of additional training for fire personnel, the total cost is expected to be about $90,000, Allmon said.

In an agreement approved April 15 by the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety, the city agreed to pay all expenses for the fire department.

The commissioners agreed unanimously Monday to approve the same agreement, which will allow the fire department to be part of the county-owned program.

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