UniFire is the division of FD12 comprised of a 12 person team of communications officers led by the Chief of Communications.
Housed on the second floor of the St. Tammany Parish Emergency Operations Center, the team at UniFire uses state-of-the-art technology to quickly and efficiently answer 9-1-1 fire and medical emergency calls and dispatch the appropriate resources to help the citizens of not only district No. 12, but 7 other parish fire departments as well through a cooperative endeavor agreement.
UniFire processes in excess of 12,000 emergencies every year and, on average, dispatches help within 45 seconds of answering a 9-1-1 call.
While working in the fast paced, and sometimes stressful, environment of a 9-1-1 office, dispatchers must have the ability to multi-task. They have to be able to calm emotional callers, obtain pertinent information related to their emergency, evaluate the urgency of the response, determine the appropriate actions to be taken, and all while dispatching appropriate personnel.
Approximately 75% of calls are EMS related (medicals and MVA’s), with the other 25% being fire or other. These certified individuals also provide Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) instructions. These instructions, which are included at each dispatcher’s console in a set of EMD Flip Cards, allow dispatchers to assist individuals with medical protocol for a large variety of emergency situations, including the ability to provide step by step instructions for CPR.
This highly trained group of individuals, who work for 12-hour shifts, are also equipped with 5 computer screens at their console, which include the following systems:
1. Mapping Screen – This screen contains a detailed map of the entire parish that helps responders locate the incident. This mapping system, maintained by the 9-1-1 office, is always updated to have the most current data.
2. Phone System – This screen is where incoming calls come in and is connected to the mapping system, allowing dispatchers to receive an address and phone number.
3. CAD System – This screen maintains records of all details related to each call, including information from the caller, responders’ field notes and other useful information such as gate codes and particular information about the resident. If the resident has special needs, that address will be flagged so that next time a call comes in from that address, an alert will appear. It also immediately provides cross streets and which fire station is to respond as soon as the address is entered.
4. Tracking – This screen displays the location of all units equipped with GPS. It helps locate the unit closest in proximity to an emergency call. It also allows the dispatcher to track the unit in-route to a call, allowing them to update the caller with approximate arrival time of help.
5. Radio System – The radio system is used to communicate with responding districts throughout a call.
If the computers should go down at the center, there are several fail safes in place to ensure that service remains uninterrupted during emergencies, including computer and radio back-ups, and two other locations that UniFire can dispatch from.
To ensure the best service and care possible, 10% of calls dispatched are reviewed through UniFire’s Quality Assurance (QA) Program. This program ensures that departmental, state, and national standards are met or exceeded. Additionally, all cardiac arrest and all structure fire calls are reviewed.
With all of these systems in place, citizens can rest assured that there is a team behind them, working around the clock, 24/7, to assist them in their time of need.