EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — In a darkened room with eyes fixated on multiple screens, security and fire alarm monitors and poised to answer 911 calls for help, fire department and security forces dispatchers now sit side-by-side in Eglin’s state-of-the-art emergency communications center.
The Emergency Control Center, located in Eglin’s new 96th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Fire Station 1 is the fire, security and medical communications hub for the entire base. This includes the ranges, Duke Field, both Army units, the explosive ordnance disposal school and many others.
“This colocated Emergency Communication Center improves both efficiency and effectiveness through interoperability and enhances emergency response standardization,” said Fire Chief Mark Giuliano.
The goal of the 10-year-old initiative to combine the dispatch units was to reduce radio and telephone crosstalk thus improving both security forces and emergency response times in situations where they are both needed.
Both two-person dispatch units in the same room automatically eliminates at least one phone call from the communication chain regardless of the incident.
That’s a time savings of between 30 seconds and two minutes depending on the situation. On a base as large and spread out as Eglin, that time is critical.
Those results showed up on the first day both units had personnel in the ECC. Communication about a security incident at the gate was routed to the center.
Since both units were in the room together, both were notified practically simultaneously.
When it was determined there was an emergency response needed, those dispatchers were already fully informed and ready to send out a truck literally seconds after the need was determined.
There are two relatively new pieces of equipment that are essential to quicker and better communication during an emergency.
The Android Tactical Assault Kit, a 96th SFS innovation project from 2018, is now fully implemented for use for both fire and security dispatches.
The Air Force Research Lab-created system, which operates on electronic tablets via a cellular network, delivers real-time visual communication and mapping that provides almost immediate situational awareness.
This instant information originates from the ECC to anyone with a need and access to their ATAK-connected device. All Eglin emergency and patrol vehicles are capable of employing the ATAK system now.
The Aircraft Emergency System is a touch-screen notification system used to alert firefighters of an aircraft emergency response.
An air traffic controller in Eglin’s tower can select the aircraft emergency information by touching a computer monitor. Once entered, this information is sent directly to the fire stations, alerting crews to respond.
This new communication technique reduces ground emergency response time by nearly two minutes, a 72 percent reduction.
With the consolidated ECC fully up and running and along with the technology upgrades, Eglin fire, security and rescue will spend much less time talking about the emergency and more time responding to it.
Those fragments of time mean everything when answering the call from anywhere on the base’s 724 square-mile landmass and 120,000 square-mile water range.
By Samuel King Jr.