Tags: Opinions Column
June 26, 2013 - This week marks a huge change for the Mehlville Fire Protection District as Central County Emergency 911 is scheduled to begin dispatching MFPD vehicles.
Chief Brian Hendricks told the Call that switching to Central County, based in Ellisville, will significantly improve Mehlville's response times.
For years, South County Fire Alarm has dispatched Mehlville and several other agencies. But after considering ways the district could provide better service to residents, Hendricks recommended the Board of Directors approve a contract with Central County, effective July 1.
The chief says he sees a night-and-day difference in the services Central County will be able to provide to Mehlville compared to South County Fire Alarm.
Under the agreement with Central County, all of Mehlville's vehicles have been equipped with the latest in computer technology, including GPS tracking. The contract includes hardware, installation, maintenance and repair of the equipment, significantly reducing Mehlville's current expenditures, according to Hendricks.
Last November, when he recommended the change in dispatching to the board, Hendricks said that South County Fire Alarm simply cannot provide the same level of technology as Central County.
Mehlville's seven engine houses currently have boundaries, called still-alarm areas. Vehicles from a particular engine house respond to all calls that occur within that area.
But with Central County's computer-aided dispatching, vehicles no longer will be restricted to the still-alarm area of the house where they are based. Instead, the vehicle closest to the call — even if it's from another fire protection district or department — will be dispatched.
Perhaps D.J. Malone, a Central County dispatcher, described the dispatching center's capabilities best when he told the Call, "This computer system is able to get the closest in ALS (advanced life-support) care to the scene and that is perfect for the citizens. They haven't gotten this before in the past. It's a great advance in technology and just patient care."
Hendricks praised the MFPD board for its decision to make the switch.
"... I can't thank the board enough for making it happen ...," he said. "It's the biggest single decision they could have made."
We agree, and applaud both Hendricks and the board for having the foresight to make the change.
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