Essex Junction FD: Tech Makes Us More Efficient
Chris Gaboriault has volunteered with the Essex Junction Fire Department for 35 years. For the past 12 years, he has served as the Chief Engineer for the company. EJFD functions as a public paid call department. They provide fire protection and first response EMS services to residents of Essex Junction. The department operates with two engines, a 105-foot ladder/pumper truck and a utility truck. They respond in automatic mutual aid to Essex Fire and provide additional assistance to fire departments in Williston, Colchester and Winooski. We visited with Chris at the fire department located right by the “five corners” section of the city. We talked about the department’s technology use and his thoughts on FirstNet.
Would you describe your current technology use?
Our dispatching is done out of the Essex Police Department. Our primary means of communication is 2-way radio. Six years ago we began using a Panasonic Toughbook in the utility truck, which acts as our mobile command truck. The Toughbook was used for mapping and message functions. Two years ago we installed IPads in the ladder truck and a second engine. We also replaced the laptop in the utility truck with an IPad because it is easier to use and more affordable. The IPads give us ready access to our incident command app and messaging function. Having internet access at the scene also allows us to access hazardous materials information. We are seeing a growing need for that type of information when we are at the scene of a call.
What applications or software are you using?
A key application we use is called I Am Responding. When our personnel receive a call, they can respond back to that call using this app. If the person has a smart phone, they can simply hit a responding button. If they have a non-smart phone, responders can call an 800 phone number that ties the call to the cell phone and the person can indicate their response. The response to a specific call then is tracked by the software. Everyone can see who is responding and their rank. The app license costs us $800 a year for the department. There’s no other significant charge. If a responder must call in to acknowledge a call, there may be a minimal charge. Last year, such charges totaled only $10 for the department.
What benefits does your department realize from this app?
The app has helped us save time and reduce radio traffic. Officers can see who is responding to a call and do not need to waste time waiting in the station to see who might be coming. If five personnel are responding, they can leave the station immediately once the fifth person is there. Our average time from tone to truck rolling out is five minutes. If no one is responding, the officer in charge can contact mutual aid. It removes the question of, “Do I wait or do I not wait?” The app also eliminates all radio acknowledgements that can be difficult to track and which also ties up 2-way radio traffic as personnel indicate if they are responding.
What do you hope FirstNet will bring to your department?
We currently have good broadband access in our service area. I look at FirstNet as something that will enable future technology use—be it a Computer Aided Dispatch system or the use of GPS locators in all vehicles to enable us to locate personnel. Technology has helped us be more efficient, allowing for better response times and accounting.