The Fire Communications Bureau receives emergency calls directly from the public as well as calls transferred to them from 911. This bureau, supervised by a Battalion Chief, is staffed by twenty two Emergency Medical Dispatchers who categorize and dispatch emergency calls as they are received. These EMDs, who are supported by a Data Entry Technician, also obtain external support services requested by units in the field.
During 2009 The Fire Communications Bureau received 53,633 requests for emergency services, an increase of 0.6% from 2008. Thousands more non-emergency calls are received and referred to 311 or the correct agency. Requests for Emergency Medical Services accounted for 83.7% of the calls that were dispatched. Emergency Medical Dispatch training gives personnel the tools to obtain more pre-dispatch information and to give pre-arrival instructions to the caller when necessary.
Exemplifying the Department’s motto, “Excellence Through Service”, one of the EMDs prevented a possible tragedy when she kept a caller on the line after a shooting incident and persuaded the person to put down her gun before the police arrived on the scene. This was a prime example of quick thinking to deal with an unusual situation.
The Fire Communications Bureau is equipped with mapping software that permits them to display the position and status of BFRS units on a computer map. This allows them to dispatch a unit that might happen to be closer to an incident than the unit that would normally be dispatched, reducing the response time and potentially resulting in less fire damage to a structure or a better outcome for a patient.
The Fire Communications Bureau has access to the images from Department of Transportation cameras located on the interstate highways throughout Birmingham. This frequently aids in obtaining a more precise location of a motor vehicle accident than a passerby is able to provide and allows the dispatcher to alert the responding units whether the accident is on an inside or outside lane.
This key section of the Department operates around the clock 365 days a year. It has an industrial strength battery backup system and generator for the computers and communications systems that prevent any interruption in their important work during periods of electrical outage during electrical storms.