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New Equipment Helps Ottumwa Fire Dept. Respond Faster

By Ellis Codjoe, February 15, 2017

Photo: Deputy Chief Cory Benge shows off one component of the new equipment: integrated IOS and Android apps. 

The Ottumwa Fire Department is sporting some new equipment at its two stations which is helping to improve response times.

The department is already able to quickly respond to most calls, in fact they’re on scene within five minutes of being notified 96% of the time.

However, Deputy Chief Cory Benge and others at the department saw room for improvement. They’ve invested around $2,000 in a new system called ‘I Am Responding’.

The system is displayed on two TVs, one at the north station and another on Church street at the south station. It allows dispatchers to quickly display a map with the incident location, best route and even nearby fire hydrants.

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The TV displaying the location of an earlier call for a car accident on McLean Street.

“It’s getting us up to the 21st century. This is gonna improve response times by giving us the best way to get there on a map,” Ottumwa Assistant Fire Chief Vince Wilcoxson told Ottumwa Radio news.

Deputy Chief Benge says that firefighters will still be expected to know Ottumwa’s streets and be able to respond without using the new system. He says the new system can be a big help in certain circumstances, such as determining the best route or finding the correct segment of a street (such as Green Street’s four separate segments).

“It’s also tied into our cell phones,” Benge said. “So the Chief and I can log in and see where they are, what calls they’ve had. It also allows dispatchers to quickly communicate with our off duty guys if we need additional people. Instead of calling everyone, they just send out an alert to their cell phones.”

Benge says the off duty firemen can then acknowledge the alert and notify the department of when they expect to be at the station.

“It can give us a ton of information with just a glance,” Benge said as he brought up the location of a fire department connection for the sprinkler system at Westgate Towers.

He panned across the map to show us an AED logo (Automatic External Defibrillator) at the city garage on Gateway Drive. “Now we can glance at that and know they have an AED,” Benge said.

With future upgrades, the system could even track and display on the map each of the department’s fire apparatus.

Benge says the system was installed shortly before Christmas, however work began more than six months before that. “A lot of work went into this, the water works guys went around and GPS tagged every hydrant in the city,” Benge said. He added that the city IT manager purchased the computers and installed the equipment at both stations.

The system is also being used to display other important information such as upcoming training sessions, apparatus status and more.

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