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Northern metro fire agencies first in Colorado to have integrated dispatch system

The new system could save one to five minutes on emergency calls, according to Thornton Fire.

THORNTON, Colo. — The difference between a click and a call matters in a dispatch center, and before April 5, dispatchers at the Thornton Emergency Communication Center had to call other agencies to be able to dispatch them, instead of seeing in real time where they were, and clicking to send them.

"So it could take up to one to two to almost three minutes sometimes, depending," said Brandi Seaton, the Communications Center Supervisor.

The difference between one and three minutes in her job, she says, is "a life." 

But those extra steps went away when the new system, called the CAD to CAD Project, went live.

"And it just saves so much time for us in here, and stress," Seaton said. 

Thornton Deputy Fire Chief Steve Kelley has been part of a team working on this integrated dispatch system for five years.

"So historically our dispatch centers have always been working in silos and really had no visibility or no communication with other dispatch centers, and that all changed with this project," Kelley said. 

Now, North Metro Fire, Thornton Fire, Adams County Fire, South Adams County Fire and Brighton Fire can all easily dispatch resources to each other in real time.

"We can watch them on the map actually going," Seaton said about the new technology.

They can see which fire agencies are available and where their units are.

"And we're certainly in a community where we have lots of different jurisdictions that share common borders, that the public may not know that they're on one side of a border in the city of Westminster or in the city of Thornton, and just being on one side of a street may dictate what dispatch center is going to be receiving that call," Kelley said.

Westminster and Broomfield are set to be connected on this system in June. Kelley said the goal is to eventually connect all of the Denver metro area.

"We've really dropped that sense of borders and we're now really operating as one region and the public is going to be getting the closest unit responding to their emergency," Kelley said. 

The day the system went live, Seaton saw it in action when someone called in a fire at townhomes in unincorporated Adams County.

"And our fire unit was the closest," she said. "Our fire unit got there within 30 seconds."

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