Some fire departments and rescue squads are dropping their pagers in favor of an emergency dispatch solution that allows messages to be transmitted onto a host of mobile devices that fire officials already carry around.

Omnilert, the maker of a unified notification system known as Amerilert, can rattle off a number of fire departments that have adopted its system. The primary draw is the fact that firefighters can receive messages on their cell phones rather than carrying around a pager. Moreover, the Web-based access means a command officer can use his BlackBerry or any computer rather than being tied to an in-house network computer to send alerts.

"Fire departments are ditching pagers and contracts to buy Amerilert because the squad members are asking the fire departments to send alerts to their cell phone and they don't want to carry a separate pager," said Omnilert spokesman Bryan Crum.

The Countryside Fire Protection District in Vernon Hills, Ill., deployed the system to its 85 personnel and uses it on a daily basis for emergency alerts — such as requests for additional personnel at a fire scene — and routine messaging. "Our people were asking for the ability to get messages to their cell phones instead of having to carry a separate device. ... We alert people if a vehicle is out of service for maintenance, if shift coverage is need, about overtime opportunities, and a lot of different things," said Jim Dinsch, information systems coordinator for the district.

The McLane/Black Lake Fire Department in Olympia, Wash., has more than 100 members in its department, and the system allows the department to coordinate its multiple groups — ranging from volunteer personnel to state fire mobilization groups.

The two agencies report that the system hasn't experienced any failures. Omnilert said it uses redundant servers and pushes messages out via multiple wireless operators, and through Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the Internet standard for e-mail transmission across IP networks.

Omnilert targets a number of groups with its Amerilert system, including public-safety agencies, schools, non-profits, corporations and government entities. The company recently introduced Amerilert 3.0 that allows messages to be sent from a Web-based interface to a host of message media that include cell phones, e-mail, Twitter feeds, public address systems, voice calls, TV and digital signage.

Individuals can register up to two text-messaging devices, four phone numbers and six e-mail addresses to receive the alerts.

As a notification service used by fire departments, Omnilert charges $1,500 per year for a squad of 100 members that wants to send unlimited text and voice messages.