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Communications Center
Communications Overview
The San José Fire Department Communications Center is recognized as an Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE) by the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch. Only 104 communication centers worldwide have earned this honor.
San José Fire Communications has 42 authorized personnel. Currently, the center employs 24 public safety dispatchers (PSDs), eight senior PSDs, three supervising PSDs, one senior office specialist, one communications manager (fire battalion chief), and one civilian deputy director who is responsible for all assigned.

To meet the needs of its large population, the San José Fire Communications Center has a state-of-the-art dispatch center. Systems include:
  • Fire Priority Dispatch System (FPDS) to provide pre-arrival and safety instructions for fire emergencies, resulting in “zero response time”
  • Fully-computerized Positron "Power 911" telephone system
  • Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) to provide pre-arrival instructions for medical emergencies, also resulting in "zero response time"
  • New Intergraph Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system
  • Sit or stand dispatch work stations
  • State-of-the-art learning center

Calling 9-1-1
San José Police Communications is the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for 9-1-1 calls. Police department call-takers initially answer each call with, “San José Emergency. What are you reporting?” Requests for fire and/or medical assistance are transferred to a fire dispatcher.

San José Fire Communications is the secondary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for fire or medical calls in San José. Fire dispatchers process all incoming calls for fire and medical assistance. Once calls are created for service, fire dispatchers dispatch the proper emergency unit(s) from one of the 31 fire stations located in San José to the calls. Emergency calls requiring medical assistance are also relayed to the County Communications Center for an ambulance to be dispatched.

Fire communications dispatchers use a Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system designed by Intergraph. Within the CAD system, an automated geographical file database containing maps and addresses of the entire city is utilized to recommend the closest fire emergency units to respond to the call. The fire stations and equipment in the field are notified of emergency calls via a station alerting package. The CAD system, on dispatch of a call, opens vocals at the proper station allowing firefighters to hear the details of the call they are being dispatched to. The system also transmits a printed message on the station printer, activates the lights, bells, and even turns off the station stove.

As a support to other City departments and furthering our community service, fire communications is also responsible for systems control. On weekends, holidays and after hours, fire dispatchers are responsible for processing non-emergency calls for the Department of Transportation (DOT). These calls range from sewer problems to debris in the roadway to malfunctioning traffic signals. Fire dispatchers also dispatch the appropriate city crews to handle these calls for service.

Another role of systems control is to troubleshoot problems with computer, radio, and phone systems within the center. From time to time, they are also tasked with troubleshooting issues at various City facilities. These requests are handled in a variety of ways, from notifying building supervisors to having technicians respond to handle the issue.

San José fire dispatchers answered approximately 146,800 emergency and non-emergency phone calls and dispatched approximately 68,000 calls for service in 2005 and 2006. Whatever the issue, emergency or non-emergency, San José fire communications dispatchers get the job done!

Calling 9-1-1 for a Medical Emergency
If you are reporting a medical emergency, be prepared to answer the following questions:
  • What is the address of the emergency?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Tell me exactly what happened?
  • How old is the patient? He or she?
  • Is she/he conscious?
  • Is she/he breathing?

The dispatcher will then ask you a series of questions based on the medical problem the patient is having. These questions are predetermined using the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS). After the questions are answered, the dispatcher will provide you with instructions to assist the patient while the emergency units are en route to the location
of the emergency. Fire dispatchers are able to provide instructions to help patients with breathing difficulties, to provide CPR, to assist a person who is choking, or to help deliver a child.

Calling 9-1-1 for a Fire Emergency
If you are reporting a fire emergency, be prepared to answer the following questions:
  • What is the address of the emergency?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Tell me exactly what happened?
  • Are you at that location now?

The dispatcher will then ask you a series of questions based on the type of fire emergency you are reporting. These questions are predetermined using the Fire Priority Dispatch System (FPDS). After the questions are answered, the dispatcher will provide you with instructions pertinent to the emergency you are reporting. Fire dispatchers are able to provide instructions to assist individuals trapped in a structure fire, to help individuals in sinking vehicles, or to assist individuals with children locked in vehicles.

To meet the needs of the diverse community we serve, the Communications Center is set up to assist callers whose first language is not English. We utilize a very helpful and accurate translator service which assists in obtaining the nature of the emergency. We are then able to relay the information to the units responding and with the help of the translator we can relay instructions to all callers.

Remember: Whatever your emergency may be, the dispatchers are there to help. They speak to callers on the phone, while their radio partners dispatch the emergency units to the location of the emergency. Speaking to a 9-1-1 dispatcher does not slow down the response of the units coming to your location. It only helps the emergency units responding understand the situation they will encounter.

The Community
San José is the third largest city in California, tenth in the nation, with a population of nearly 960,000. Known as the "Capital of Silicon Valley," San José is home to 40% of the area's advanced technology companies. San José has long been recognized as the safest large city in the United States, and one of the 10 best cities in which to live and do business.

San José is known for its cultural and recreational activities, including its new Repertory Theater, Civic Light Opera, San José Ballet, and the San José Arena, which is home to the Sharks, a National Hockey League team. The City has numerous museums, theme parks, active trail systems and gardens, an extensive parks and recreation system, and community service programs for residents and visitors.

San José is also within driving distance of well-known vacation spots, such as Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Monterey and Carmel, San Francisco, Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, and the beautiful Northern California shoreline.

San José has an outstanding K-12 public school system. Secondary educational institutions in the area include San José State University, Santa Clara University, California State University East Bay located in Hayward, and Stanford University. Also, there are numerous community colleges that supplement educational opportunities.