“There’s a tremendous benefit not only for system coverage, but for the amount of frequencies that we’re going to have access to,” he said.
The augmented access brings more communication channels into the mix — from five to nine — through a process called “trunking,” which uses frequencies more efficiently than the previous technology, he said.
The improvement also brings the system into compliance with standards handed down by the Federal Communications Commission, he said.
Besides accomplishing FCC compliance, the strength of the new system lies in the regional interoperability of the network, Glendale Fire Department Capt. Tom Propst said.
The coverage area spans from Burbank to Monrovia and as far south as Monterey Park. The true value of smooth regional interoperability is demonstrated during large-scale emergencies, such as the recent Southern California wildfires, Propst said.
With such a broad response, dispatchers at Verdugo essentially operate as if the 40 fire stations are one department, sending the fire agency closest to the site of the problem, Wise said.
For Verdugo dispatchers, who rely on the system on a daily basis, the new network means increased efficiency, he said.
The center receives calls on more than 60,000 incidents per year, with issues ranging anywhere from a sick child to a plane crash, he said.
“That can be very taxing [for a dispatcher],” he said. “It’s akin to being an air traffic controller but on the ground.”
Due to high-stress demands of the job, the command center is quiet and dimly lit, with most of the room’s illumination supplied by dozens of flat-paneled computer monitors.
While dispatchers’ primary task is to coordinate emergency response, placating frenetic callers is also an important part of the job, as well as medical information, Propst said.
“Generally what they spend most of their time doing is calming people down and putting them in control of the situation,” he said.