The first link to getting help in an emergency is most often a telephone call to a communications specialist. Long ago, Littleton Fire Rescue recognized the vital role that the communications center plays in the operational efficiency and delivery of fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Since 1981, The Littleton Fire Rescue Communications Center (LFRCC) has dispatched specialized fire, rescue and emergency medical service resources to residents of the City of Littleton, the Littleton Fire Protection District (which includes parts of unincorporated Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson Counties, including part of the City of Centennial), and the Highlands Ranch Metropolitan Districts. LFRCC also provides services for the Cunningham Fire Protection District in unincorporated Arapahoe County. The center handles over 70,000 telephone calls annually resulting in an average of 17,000 calls dispatched. The center tracks over 32,000 individual unit responses to calls for service.
Arapahoe-Douglas County Hazardous Materials Response Team Since 1992, the LFRCC has served as the primary contact and/or dispatch point for the Arapahoe-Douglas County Hazardous Materials Response Team. This includes dissemination of emergent and non-emergent information to hazardous materials team technicians.
Through our commitment to recruiting, hiring and retaining only the most qualified individuals, we have been able to maintain a highly professional staff of 12 full-time fire and EMS communications specialists. Our full-time staff has a total of more than 100 years combined experience with LFRCC, and when time and experience with other public safety agencies are included, this total increases to more than 160 years. Seven staff members have been with LFRCC for over ten years, and eight have been in public safety communications for more than 20 years.
All of our dispatch applicants must complete the "CritiCall" computer based multi-tasking test. This test allows us to narrow the list of applicants to only those individuals that possess the basic computer and multitasking skills necessary for the job. All new "conditional hires" must also pass a background check, psychological evaluation, polygraph examination, hearing test, and medical examination prior to receiving a formal job offer.
The LFRCC has designed and implemented a comprehensive training program that ensures that the communications specialists have the necessary skills and abilities to get the job done. All communications specialists are trained by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officers (APCO) certified training officers. A probationary employee's training progress is tracked daily via "Expectations Evaluation Management" software using APCO International standards. All communications specialists receive specialized training in the following areas:
- Call Processing — The communications specialist is the principal link between the person requesting fire or emergency medical assistance and the emergency responders. Communications specialists are taught skills that will enable them to professionally and efficiently take control of a call for assistance.
- Enhanced 9-1-1 — Most calls for service are received on either a 9-1-1 or ten digit phone line. In most cases the enhanced 9-1-1 system provides the Communications Specialists with the name, address and phone number of the calling party (ANI-Automatic Number Information, ALI-Automatic Location Information). This information is automatically downloaded into the computer aided dispatch system.
- Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Apparatus — The communications specialist receives in-depth training that defines each type of resource that the fire service has available. Training includes the capabilities and equipment carried on the resource and the location of the resource.
- Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) — The design of the CAD system is to provide a comprehensive incident response system for all calls for service. This system defines response areas and recommends the closest and most appropriate fire and EMS units, however, it is up to the communications specialist to make the decision to send a specific unit to handle a call. The center uses the TriTech Software systems VisiCAD product to fulfill this vital role.
- Fire Department Communications — The communications specialist receives training that identifies the appropriate use of the multiple communications systems that are available within the State of Colorado.
- Hazardous Materials Awareness — Hazardous materials are commonly found in products used every day. Communications specialists are trained to ask questions that will help identify the presence of hazardous materials, so that responding fire and EMS personnel can protect themselves and the public.
- District Familiarization — The LFRCC coverage area includes approximately 100 square-miles. Located within that coverage area are three counties, seven cities/municipalities, 15 law enforcement jurisdictions, many residential and business developments, state parks, and open space trails.
- National Incident Management System (NIMS) — This system provides a comprehensive national approach to incident management, applicable at all jurisdictional levels and across functional disciplines for federal, state and local governments to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents.
- Terrorism Awareness, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) — The potential for terrorism is here in this country and must remain in our thoughts as we respond to any incident. All communications specialists are certified in field awareness and field operations by the Colorado Training Center on Biological, Nuclear, Incendiary, Chemical and Explosives.
- Heavy and Light Rail — Running through the center of the City of Littleton are both heavy rail and light rail tracks. In order to prepare for a rail incident, communications specialists participate in training with representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Regional Transportation District. These training sessions combine classroom information with hands on practical application.
- Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) — In November of 1976, the United States Department of Transportation developed a program to provide dispatchers with basic emergency medical training. The LFRCC has been providing EMD Services since 1982. Today EMD plays a fundamental role in the ability of the EMS system to respond to an emergency. With proper training, the communications specialist can rapidly and accurately identify the medical problem, prioritize the EMS response, provide pertinent information to responding personnel, and give life-saving pre-arrival instructions to the caller who may be able to provide supportive care. This system is designed to enhance the level of safety of the patient, bystanders and responding fire and EMS personnel.
- Incident Dispatch Team — Several members of our staff have been trained to respond to the scene of major incidents to serve as an incident communications specialist. These individuals are trained to accurately document the chronological events of the incident and assist the incident commander with field communications. By handling these communications on scene, the incident communications specialist may relieve the extra workload a critical incident places on the communications center. At the incident commander's discretion, the incident communications specialist may assist by filling the position of logistics officer or planning officer.
- Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TTY / TDD) — Nationwide, there are over four million hearing and speech impaired people who use TDD equipment. Utilizing the Positron Power 911 telephone system, the center has an integrated TTY with pre-programmed messages for the hearing impaired, (HCO-hearing carry over) or voice impaired (voice carry over-VCO), and a unique buffered mode. This allows the communications specialist to freely communicate with deaf, hearing and voice impaired callers.
- AT&T Language Line Translation — The Communications Center employs the use of Language Line Services interpreters. Trained translators listen to our limited or non-English speaking callers, analyze the message and accurately convey its original meaning to our communications specialist.
- Emergency Notification System (ENS) — One of the tools available to notify specific sections of the district is the ENS system. This system is a computer-based phone system that can make simultaneous multiple calls to deliver a pre-recorded message within a defined area. This system is not a function of a typical 9-1-1 system. The ENS is not intended to be an emergency alerting system, the system is a resource used to inform citizens of important and sometimes critical information in a short amount of time. Some examples of when the ENS might be used include: neighborhood evacuations; missing person information; or to notify residents of a long-term event which may impact traffic flow.
- Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center — The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) is a vital, lifesaving service. The RMPDC is a certified regional poison center as recognized by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) and serves as a regional drug information center that provides knowledge and caring expertise in the treatment of poisonings and drug interactions. An education specialist from the RMPDC conducts a training seminar designed specifically for our communications specialists to help better serve our citizens.
- Continuing Education — The LFRCC is committed to the development and implementation of our continuing education program. Without regular educational experiences, communications specialists may become less proficient in their job duties. This program is designed to provide the communications specialists with educational topics designed to enhance their general knowledge and skill in handling emergency incidents.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) — Since 1960, the LFRCC has been developing and revising communications SOPs. After 45 years, our center has learned from its mistakes and incorporated these lessons into the way we do business on a daily basis.
- Littleton Fire Rescue Special Response Teams — Littleton Fire Rescue has formed specialized teams that routinely respond to emergency incidents that require specific advanced levels of training or specialized tools and equipment. These teams include the Hazardous Materials Response Team, Wildland Response Team, Water Rescue Team and the Tactical EMS Team. Communications specialists receive annual refresher training that address the special teams operational capability, personnel, equipment and resources.
With the continued support of the City of Littleton, the Littleton Fire Protection District Highlands Ranch Metropolitan Districts, and Cunningham Fire Protection District we have been able to build a state of the art facility with the latest computer hardware and software. The LFRCC utilizes technology designed specifically to meet the needs of the fire and EMS services we provide. These include:
- Enhanced 9-1-1 — The communications center utilizes a Positron VIPER Telephony System to process all telephone calls. This system has been customized to meet the needs of our Communication Center well into the future.
- Enhanced 9-1-1, Phase II Wireless — This system allows the communications specialist to know the approximate location of cell phone callers (providing the caller's cell phone carrier has made the necessary equipment upgrades and the cell phone device is compatible).
- Contact Map — In conjunction with the Positron telephony system, the communications center also utilizes a software program called "Contact Map." This program is used to graphically display on a computer monitor, the location of the caller for all telephone calls into the center. This includes plotting the location of the caller on all Phase II wireless 9-1-1 calls.
- Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) — Tri-Tech Software Systems is a nationally recognized leader in computer aided dispatch for the fire and EMS industries. The Tri-Tech CAD features were customized to meet the specific needs of our user departments. Tri-Tech's unique CAD software lets Littleton Fire Rescue increase productivity, streamline operations and improve our emergency responsiveness. Tri-Tech continues to lead the public safety software industry with innovative solutions including the development of the world's first graphical, Microsoft® Windows NT™, mapping-based dispatch system with Internet and intranet ready analysis tools. In addition, the company's flagship product, VisiCAD™, has won numerous awards. Tri-Tech is the only CAD system to receive the prestigious Microsoft Solution Provider's Creative Solution award for the most innovative Windows application.
- Emergency Preparedness Network (EPN) — This telephone notification system is capable of calling over 1,100 phone numbers per minute to deliver a pre-recorded message to citizens during an emergency.
- Emergency Back-Up Power — The LFRCC is protected by two forms of emergency power. To sustain the center's operation during the interim period of time between the loss of Xcel power and the onset of back-up generator power, we are equipped with an uninterrupted power system that is capable of fully running the communications center for up to one hour. We are also equipped with a diesel gas-powered generator that will automatically start whenever a disruption in outside power is detected.
- Map Projection — The communications center is equipped with a large projection map of the fire district that allows anyone in the room to view the location of a working incident and the location of all field units. The location data is transmitted via radio frequency signals to the CAD system where the communications specialist can view vehicle locations. This projection system is ideal for communications specialists or fire department commanders who need to track field unit locations to insure adequate district coverage.
- Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) — AVL utilizes a combination of Global Positioning Satellite and wireless telecommunications technology to track the locations of emergency vehicles in real-time. This enables the communications specialist to determine which vehicle can best respond to an emergency call.
- Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) — This system is controlled by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch, and is the most advanced and comprehensive EMD system available. It is designed to provide standardized, methodical call classification and triage emergency medical dispatch. Each communications specialist receives comprehensive training and certification on MPDS, which is internationally recognized as one of the standards of care in the industry.
- ProQA — The ProQA Emergency Dispatch Software Program integrates the MPDS protocols with today's critical computer technologies. This online product helps our communications specialists move smoothly through a series of questions designed to identify the nature of the call. All information is automatically downloaded into the Tri-Tech CAD system and is sent to personnel responding to the call.
- Advanced Quality Assurance (AQUA) — Aqua Phoenix is a unique public safety software tool developed to measure and improve EMD performance. Aqua provides management staff with an automated MPDS case review tool that turns raw data into meaningful information on MPDS performance. Management reports are then used to identify the training needs of the communications specialists to optimize the MPDS delivery to the public.
- Quality Assurance, Peer Review — The process of individual case review allows the communications specialist to receive regular feedback on job performance, provides recognition of exemplary performance and identifies deficiencies. This unique format allows all communications specialists to learn by receiving feedback from their peers, and provides an objective review of skills.
- EMSYSTEM — LFRCC subscribes to the EMSYSTEM website. This system allows the communications specialist to notify EMS crews of the divert and advisory status of every hospital in Colorado, and allows the communications center to alert specific hospitals in the event of a mass casualty incident. Once alerted, hospitals respond with available bed counts and other information to allow the triage officer on the scene to efficiently coordinate disbursement of patients to various hospitals.
- Multiple Back-Up Facilities — The LFRCC has two back-up facilities available to handle special events and/or relocate the communications center to an alternate facility should the need arise. The City of Littleton Mobile Command Center can be set up in minutes, and can fully take over the basic functions of the center. The Alternate Emergency Operations Center, located in a Littleton Fire Station, provides the communications specialist with access to a fixed facility that contains our back up CAD system, and several multi-channel radio consoles.
- XYBIX Workstations — XYBIX, a Littleton, Colorado company, has custom designed adjustable, ergonomic workstations to meet the unique needs of our center and the different needs of our employees. The workstation configuration will allow up to four communications specialists to operate at any given time.
- West-Net First in Station Alerting-This product provides the center with an I.P. based fire station alerting system. This system provides multiple layers of redundant alerting to the fire station.
- Logging Recorder — The LFRCC uses a Stencil digital voice logger, which digitally records all telephone and radio transmissions received through the communications center. These records are then archived on the system's hard drive for a period of one year. The recorder allows us to send e-mails containing digital audio waveform files of requested recordings verses the old cassettes used in the past.
- CCNC Zone Controller — The LFRCC currently connect our radio consoles directly into the statewide zone controller. This connection allows the communications specialists to have direct access to the CCNC radio system, thus reducing potential call delays when the system is congested. This connection will also enhance our communication center's capabilities by allowing the communications specialists to read on the CAD screen the identity of the field unit who is speaking on the radio and will allow us to enable the emergency panic alarm on the firefighter's radios.
- Tri-Tech Software Systems Live Routing — Traffic congestion, gridlock, weather and time of day may necessitate an alternative response to an emergency incident. Live Routing is a software program that allows CAD to make emergency response recommendations based on the location of the incident, the location of the responding apparatus and the fastest travel route using the existing road network.
Members of the Littleton Fire Rescue Communications Center are also involved in the community. In addition to their dispatch duties, many of our Communications Specialist participates in the following programs:
- 9-1-1 Education — LFRCC communications specialists have developed a nationally recognized 9-1-1 education program that is presented on a regular basis to kindergarten and second grade classes, civic groups, and senior citizens.
- Life Safety Education Characterization Team — This presentation includes a combination of puppets and characters to represent basic fire and injury prevention messages to elementary school children.
- Western Welcome Week (WWW) — Western Welcome Week is an annual community celebration organized by Western Welcome Week, Inc. There are more than 40 events during the 11-day celebration each August, benefiting dozens of local non-profit organizations. Volunteerism and support from the business community make WWW a success year after year. Nurturing community spirit, bringing the community together by involving many residents and businesses, creating an opportunity for fundraising, support for service clubs and charities, and providing 11 days of fun and entertainment for Littleton area businesses and residents are the goals of WWW. One of the main purposes of WWW is to create an opportunity for fundraising and support for local service clubs and charities. An estimated $250,000 is earned each year at WWW by non-profit organizations.
- Safety Fairs — "An unacceptable number of Americans are losing their lives and being injured by fires each year," said U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison. "We know that smoke alarms, escape plans, child fire prevention programs, and residential sprinklers save lives. We continue to encourage everyone to take the steps necessary to ensure their homes are fire safe today. Nearly 3,400 people die each year in residential fires." In nearly two-thirds of these fires, smoke detectors are either not installed or are not working. Smoke alarms need to be tested frequently and batteries should be replaced every six months.
- Kids Mini-Fire Academy — Held twice during the summer months at a Littleton Fire Station, this four-day academy for children ages eight through 12 interactively teaches children about fire safety, bicycle safety, kitchen safety, first aid, and the life of a firefighter.
Members of the Littleton Fire Rescue Communication Center are also involved in many committees and special projects. These include the following:
- Arapahoe County 9-1-1 Authority Technical Committee
- Consolidated Communications Network of Colorado (CCNC) State Trunked 800 MHz Radio System, serving as a member of the board of directors, representing metro fire department
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Region 7, 700MHz/800 MHz Frequency Planning Committee
- Tri-Tech Software Systems International User Group, Fire Steering Committee
- Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and North Central Region (NCR) Homeland Security Grant, Communications Committee
- State of Colorado Emergency Medical Dispatch Committee:
— Metro Area Radio Interoperability Committee
— Emergency Preparedness Network – User Group
- APCO International Conference Motorola Trunked Radio User Group
With more than 24 years of specialized fire and EMS communications experience, the Littleton Fire Rescue Communications Center is committed to providing service unmatched by any other organization.