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Closest-car 911 dispatch inching closer to action

ALBANY, Ga. -- The final piece of a program that will allow 911 operators to dispatch the closest available emergency vehicle to an incident location is close to being put into place, city officials say.

A feature designed to augment the existing Automatic Vehicle Locator program, the closest-car dispatch system uses existing global positioning system hardware in police and fire department vehicles to determine the location of vehicles relative to an incident location so that the closest vehicle can be sent to the call, potentially saving time and lives, officials say.

Technicians with the company working with city officials on the project notified them Friday that there will be a conference call Monday to set up the timeline for installation, which could happen sometime in the next few weeks, officials say.

The system has been billed as a way to cut response time, thereby saving lives. As an example, if a motorist haa a wreck on Slappey Boulevard, the current Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System may recommend dispatching fire units from the closest fire station, which could be several blocks away.

Once the new program is running, it will work with CAD to alert the dispatcher if there is a needed emergency vehicle, such as a fire truck, that is traveling closer to the incident than the station. Once that is established, that response vehicle can be dispatched instead.

The city currently has its AVL system operating. That system shows dispatchers on a screen where public safety units are and whether they are on an emergency call with lights and sirens.

The new system, according to Central Services Director Stephen Collier, uses AVL to communicate the location of police and fire units to the CAD system.

Once the system is installed, a short test period of one to two weeks would follow, according to Deputy EMA Director Jim Vaught.