The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) recently purchased HP workstations and performance displays for its emergency dispatch center, which helps protect more than 4 million citizens in America's second-largest city. The workstations let the LAFD run bandwidth-intensive applications simultaneously, including a real-time mapping application that tracks all deployed resources, said Dennis Bloemhof, director of systems at LAFD.

The department’s latest PC installation includes units from HP’s Z Workstation series, which have built-in Intel Xeon processors for communications between the dispatch center and the emergency responders while they’re out in the field, according to a company spokesperson. Vital information such as location, type of emergency and pre-arrival instruction, is delivered directly to first-responder vehicles via workstations at the dispatch center.

Now, with the support of the new services, the department will roll out an expansion of its existing automatic vehicle location system. The first step — installing GPS-enabled Panasonic Toughbooks on 600 rigs — is complete. Bloemhof said in the next phase of the project, the information will be transmitted wirelessly from the computers into department’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system so uniformed fire-department dispatchers and captains can see units’ location.

“Then, in theory, we would then be able to dispatch the nearest the unit and not necessarily the unit assigned to that area. It’s possible one would be closer,” Bloemhof said. “We feel like there would be greater efficiencies in dispatching, but also it will allow us to get to the scene of a call much more quickly and avoid some of the traffic tie-ups that sometimes occur.”

The department has big hopes for the mapping application. In fact, Bloemhof said he met a few weeks ago with the city’s central IT shop and learned they are initiating the second phase of grant funding for a broadband project.

“We’re going to focus on the fire department and expand its broadband capabilities,” he said. “So a lot of the mapping applications will be supported, and we will be able to update in our rigs while we are in the field.”

In other news, Bloemhof said the LAFD also recently upgraded its ProQA medical dispatcher software, which helps dispatchers process information and select an appropriate dispatch level for each of the 1,200 to 1,500 incidents per day that require emergency unit deployment. He said a quality improvement group uses the software to review calls and make sure the department followed protocols. The department then holds follow-up training if there is any deviation.

“It lets us ensure we are following the right protocols and doing the right thing each time,” Bloemhof said.