Faster emergency response in Kennewick could save lives

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- A handy messaging device has gone a long way at reducing emergency response times and saving as many lives as possible.

It's been said many times before and it's worth saying again: when lives are at stake, every second matters.

"One or two minutes could make the difference between somebody's loved one going home some day, versus somebody being deceased," says Chief Deputy Marvin, Kennewick Fire.

40 seconds doesn't seem like much. It's slightly longer than a TV commercial. But firefighters tell you by slashing their response time a full 40-seconds, they will get to Charlene Helle's neighborhood faster.

"(Fast response) is everything to me. They need to get here," Helle tells KEPR.

An unassuming computer made it all possible. It's called a mobile data terminal. With the simple tap of a button, firefighters are able to send messages directly to dispatchers without jamming up radio frequencies. In the old days, even the most basic message had to be radioed in, meaning firefighters on an actual emergency would waste precious seconds waiting for a response.

"It was frustrating," says Deputy Chief Leonard. "You're at an emergency sitting in a truck and you're waiting for your turn to talk on the radio."

Not anymore. Since the Mobile Data Terminal was introduced a year ago, all communication is now instant, meaning a faster response when seconds count and lives are at stake.

The average response time in Kennewick is now one minute and 21 seconds.

It cost $95,000 to buy mobile data terminals, but the proof has been in the pudding: it's resulting in an immediate improvement in the response times.