Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center

Currently Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center (PFDRDC) provides fire and emergency medical dispatching services for twenty (20) jurisdictions directly and three (3) entities indirectly. This covers over 2,000 square miles within Maricopa County. PFDRDC is on track to dispatch 327,000 calls for service and will handle an estimated 1.3 millions telephone calls in 2005.

The Phoenix Fire Department has a long history of providing the highest level of life safety and property preservation to the citizens we serve. In 1982 the Department automated its dispatching services going from a manual process to using a Computer Aided Dispatch system or “CAD” for short. This technology afforded a reduced response time or the time it takes a unit to be dispatched and make patient contact, which ultimately saves lives. Our state-of-the-art CAD system is customized to fit our needs, thereby ensuring the highest level of customer service at all times. Because of the technology that is available today, we currently provide dispatching services to twenty (20) jurisdictions directly and three (3) entities indirectly within Maricopa County. This service area is over 2,000 square miles and encompasses the City of Phoenix as well as the surrounding areas that make up what is widely known at “The Valley of the Sun”.

In 1996 the Phoenix Fire Department’s Regional Dispatch Center was relocated to its current location and is the centerpiece of the Operations Center. We remain on the cutting edge not only with our CAD system but also with our radio and telephone equipment and enhancements.

“Automatic Aid” erases jurisdictional boundaries for all participating agencies. This ensures first and foremost that the customer is receiving the highest level of care available at all times and secondly, allows all participating agencies better use of their resources. Each participating agency must adhere to standard operating policies and procedures which allows multiple agencies to work side-by-side on incidents under one Incident Command. This seamless cooperative effort ensures that the closest most appropriate resources are dispatched without a time or distance delay.

In the dispatch center itself you will find personnel on duty 24 hours a day 7 days a week trained and ready to answer incoming 911 calls or assisting units on-scene using a radio. This area is staffed with an on-duty Battalion Chief who works a 24-hour shift mirroring the field, a shift supervisor, a lead dispatcher and a team of dispatchers who are cross-trained in all positions and rotate throughout the shift answering incoming calls for service, dispatching calls or handling the radio traffic of working incidents. On busier shifts the staffing level is increased. We have the ability to call in additional personnel if activity levels warrant. All of our personnel are EMD certified and provide self-help instructions as necessary.

Phoenix Fire Department’s Regional Dispatch Center is considered a “Secondary Answering Point” in the 911 System. This means that when an individual dials 911 to report an emergency the call will be answered by the local law enforcement agency first. This agency is known as the “Primary Answering Point”. The local law enforcement agency determines if the emergency requires fire and/or medical services and if so transfers the call. This all transpires within seconds. When the 911 phone rings in the dispatch center one of our Fire Communication Operators, also called an “Incident Taker”, will answer and confirm the location of the emergency, the phone number, and determine what the emergency is before sending the incident off via the CAD system to be dispatched by another Fire Communications Operator or our “Channel One Operator”, all the while giving self-help instructions if needed. The Channel One Operator is responsible for “dispatching” the call, or letting the responding units know where they are to respond, what type of emergency they are going on and the tactical radio channel the incident will be worked off of. This position also handles all administrative radio traffic such as units going available or unavailable. The Fire Communications Operator who talks to the units assigned to an incident is called the “TRO” or Tactical Radio Operator. This position is responsible for ensuring that additional resources are dispatched if required and documenting pertinent information in the incidents history.

CAD knows where every piece of equipment is at all times due to global positioning technology. This is commonly referred to as “AVL” or Automatic Vehicle Location. This technology not only selects the closest most appropriate unit to dispatch, it is also a tool used by the Incident Taker when reassuring the caller, by being able to give them precise information about the units distance from the call. Imagine a drowning call and being able while giving CPR instructions to let the caller know that the unit is one (1) mile out, 1/2mile out and so on. The CAD system knows what to dispatch based on response requirements for each call type in the system. We call these call types “nature codes”. When we have an emergency that involves someone having a heart attack this nature code has a pre-set response requirement and units are selected based on that criterion.

Information from Phoenix Fire website