By Travis Gulbrandson
Until last month, there was no way for the Vermillion Fire Department to know how many of its members were going to respond to a call.
Now, thanks to a Web-based program from IamResponding.com, they not only know how many will be responding to emergencies, but which members will be responding.
The system works by sending data to a large TV screen that is prominently displayed at the station.
As volunteers verify they will be coming, their name appears on the screen.
“When we receive a call, dispatch sends out a message with the address (of the emergency site) in text form,” explained Fire Chief Richard (Shannon) Draper. “Every member has a phone number pre-programmed into their phone. They just dial it and put the phone down, and it will automatically populate the TV screen so that our members know who’s responding.”
This allows the volunteers to operate on a timelier basis, Draper said.
“The biggest hurdle for is us, we’re all volunteer, and there are times where I may have a hard time getting some volunteers (to respond),” he said. “Time is of the essence, and so prior to have this system, a big hurdle was not knowing if anyone was coming.
“We might have somebody sitting out on the apron waiting five, 10 minutes, seeing if anyone else will come,” he said.
Alternately, volunteers who arrived just a few minutes after everyone else might have found themselves left behind.
“We might have three people jump on a truck and leave, and then all of a sudden somebody else pulls in,” Draper said. “Now we can see immediately who is coming, because I’m requiring all our firefighters to use this system.”
Along with improving response time, the program also helps Draper decide if he needs to call neighboring departments for assistance.
IamResponding was purchased with funds raised by an association to which the volunteers belong that has in the past bought fire trucks and other equipment for the department, Draper said.
In addition to the program itself, the TVs that display the program data were purchased for both fire stations, as well as the dispatch center.
“They’ve wanted this for some time,” he said. “There seemed to be some questions on the implementation of it, and so I’ve been working with the company to get through that and get all our questions answered.”
The program was installed last month and already has been utilized by the department.
“It’s really interesting to watch this during a real emergency because (the screen) fills up real quick,” Draper said.
The acquisition of the program makes Vermillion the second community in the area to use it.
“The only other one in this region is North Sioux City,” Draper said. “There are other departments that are going toward this, (but) it’s totally new to the area.”
For more information, visit iamresponding.com.