Everyone Can Talk in 11-Station Phone Link
A telephone conference system that can include up to 20 participating locations has recently been installed in the Rockford, Ill., Fire Department.
Chief James Cragan explained that the system not only facilitates routine communications to companies, but also expedites discussions of fire operations upon return to quarters. The system is also used for continuing education classes comprised of on-duty fire fighters.
If a hazardous materials incident occurs, a Rockford dispatcher can phone experts anywhere in the country and establish a conference with fire officers handling the emergency.
At the heart of the system designed by Darome, Inc., of Harvard, Ill., is an electronic bridge that looks like an elaborate switchboard. It is located in the alarm office. In addition, portable amplifying units with microphones for two-way group communication are in each of the 11 Rockford fire stations, the training academy, the arson bureau, and the headquarters conference room. A dispatcher can dial out to set up a conference, or participants can dial in to join a conference.
John Jung, department research assistant, explained that the system is used every morning to issue orders of the
day to all stations, for an update and to discuss any unusual situations.
Using the system for training will significantly reduce the cost for continuing education and simplify logistics, Jung said.
Training session use
Previously, off-duty fire fighters would be called back for training sessions at time-and-a half, or while on duty, they would be reassigned for continuing education classes. This meant that they would either be unavailable to respond to emergencies or their response time would be significantly longer. Now they receive additional training in
their stations while on duty at no extra manpower costs and at no sacrifice in the city’s protection.
The system will also be used in conjunction with the department’s cable television system to provide a two-way audio capability with video programming, duplicating a classroom situation.
Jung said the system will prove invaluable for critiquing major fire fighting operations. After a serious fire, a district chief in his office can discuss with companies in their stations how the fire was fought and how operations can be improved. Fire investigators will also be able to talk to companies to find out what they saw and did at fires.