Friday, January 26, 2007

LAFD's New Voices

So, I thought mine ears were deceiving me earlier today when I turned on the scanner and heard Santa Monica Engine 121 going "available in quarters"on LAFD's dispatch channel 7. I automatically assumed the SMFD engine had been called out on a mutual aid run with a Venice (63), Mar Vista (62) or Palisades (23, 69) LAFD station, which is sometimes the case. I figured they'd been canceled and were just telling OCD they were off the call.

A few hours later, I heard a full blown dispatch in the city of Santa Monica, with SMFD resources and a Gerber ambulance all check in, going en route on OCD 7 (859.4375). Then, I heard a SMFD EMS run on OCD 4--the city's EMS dispatch channel. Could it be???? Was LAFD suddenly dispatching for SMFD? Was this the beginning of the Apocalypse?

The answer is yes, and maybe. Thanks to Kerry over at, LA City is now contracting out dispatching services with SMFD as part of an arrangement to test out radio cooperation between fire agencies in Region A. Region A is a grouping of fire departments that all offer mutual aid with each other and mix and match when forming Strike Forces to fight brush fires.

According to Kerry, if it's successful, LAFD could begin dispatching for other agencies on contract, since the City is the region coordinator! Holy shit. This is actually pretty big news and a pretty big adjustment for the extremely territorial City boys.

Already, because SMFD isn't hooked up to the LAFD's mobile computer system, they have to do all of their updates via the radio; they can't just punch a key on the computer to let dispatch see their status. That's virtually a doubling of LAFD's radio traffic, which is a pretty quiet affair these days.

In general, LAFD will "simulcast" all major incidents via the radio and over the nice computerized lady system that now "rings down" at each fire station. Instead of hearing loud bells and buzzers of days past, followed by a grizzled old dispatcher's voice, the men and women of the LAFD are now treated to a steady warble, followed by the smooth voice of a woman from Utah who recorded all of the dispatch combination possibilities. She calmly announces the call: so when a triple GSW comes in, there's no drama on the station intercom, just a middle-American voice telling the units they're going to a shooting.

The live dispatchers will still broadcast major incident dispatches over the air--ones that usually require multiple units from different stations. They also still dispatch any unit over the radio that's out of quarters and driving around the city. But at night, things get super-quiet. That's because all of the EMS dispatches that don't require fire company resources (ambulances without fire engines) are dispatched over the telephone--literally.

It's a throwback from the days when the firefighters didn't want to be awoken by numerous middle of the night EMS calls. Never mind that the opposite isn't the case! If an engine or truck company gets a call that doesn't require EMS, they still get rung down on the overhead speakers and all the station lights go on automatically....who cares about the medics' and EMTs' sleep, right?

Anyway, now that SMFD will need verbal dispatches 24/7 look for the frequencies to get busier. If this experiment works out, it's possible that Culver City, Beverly Hills and others (maybe the South Bay FDs) will all get dispatched by the City. Region C, which includes the Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena departments, already has this centralized system, known as Verdugo Dispatch.

As a side note, I was wondering why the SMFD unit identifiers changed in the last few weeks. What was previously "Engine 1" is now "Engine 121" etc. Must be to align the units with other departments in Region A. I suspect we'll see BHFD changing their identifiers eventually, as well.

Also, be interesting to hear SMFD adopt LAFD terminology.

Let the games begin.

1 comment:

Karl said...

This has been talked about the past 10 months on the socalscan yahoogroup....