St. Albert Fire Services Gets Smart City Upgrade

An upgrade to St. Albert firetrucks is giving firefighters more information about an incident before they arrive on scene.

The upgrades are another piece of St. Albert’s Smart City master plan, which works to incorporate technology into the city’s services to save money and deliver better services.

The fire department is now equipped with what is it called a mobile computer aided dispatch (CAD) which allows for more efficient communication with dispatch and more information about the city buildings being stored on a device in the truck.

“It gives us a better indication of what our true response times are and a better indication of what is going on when they get there,” said Percy Janke, deputy chief administration and planning fire services.

The device allows the fire department to preload floor plans of buildings in the community to help when responding to emergency situations more safely and efficiently. It allows for first responders to see where the hazards are and what fire protection measures they have in place. The document lists how much water would be required to put out a fire if the building was engulfed in flames and where the gas and electrical switches are in the building.

It even allows for building managers to give the fire department information on any residents who may need assistance leaving a building during an emergency.

Right now the department has 69 building plans loaded into the system and has another 60 to add. By the end of the summer they hope to have more than 200 plans loaded into the system. Their focus is on getting information for high risk and high-density buildings first.

The device also allows for more efficient communication with dispatch and has a map that is linked with the city’s records. Before mobile CAD was installed, the department was relying on Google maps, which the department said was accurate around 80 per cent of the time, and supplemented that with paper maps.

Now first responders have an accurate, up to date map that is linked with the city’s records and overlay features such as walking trails or fire extinguishers onto the map for more information.

First responders can also communicate more efficiently with dispatch through the device. With the touch of a button they can let dispatch know when they have arrived on scene. Dispatch can also send notes or cautions through the device so important data is not travelling through the radio system.

This technology is common in fire departments across the country and the St. Albert Fire Services is catching up.

Smart city manager Travis Peter said that the new technology improves the safety of the public and first responders.

“This is a critical service. We need to ensure we can get to your house on time, every time,” Peter said.

Peter said that this is just one of the many pieces in the Smart City Master Plan. There are around 80 projects in the works right now.

Peter said the next project the city will be looking at is to sync the traffic lights up with first responders so it will force a green light for emergency vehicles at intersections during an emergency.

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