Cherry Hill, New Jersey
As a former dispatcher with the Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department, I find it sad to have to say that Bruce Cavallari`s article is good advice (“Monitoring Radio Traffic: Should Your Unit Be Responding to a More Urgent Call?” What We Learned, December 1998). However, it should not be the company officer`s responsibility to monitor the radio traffic throughout the county; he should monitor radio traffic pertaining to the incident to which he is responding. It should be the responsibility of the dispatch center to notify units closest to a serious incident and reroute them.
Unfortunately, many dispatch centers are staffed by unskilled, untrained, and uninterested persons who for all they care and how they act could be dispatching garbage trucks. A decent, attentive dispatcher with some geographic knowledge of the area and common sense could have initiated the rerouting of Cavallari`s engine company from a likely falsely activated fire alarm to a confirmed structure fire in his first-due area. If a dispatcher does not have authority to do this, at least he should notify the first-due company or chief of the situation.
Many in the fire service still fail to realize that the body doesn`t usually work so well if something is amiss in the central nervous system.