New 'voice' helping Dubuque emergency crews

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A new "voice" in Dubuque is helping first responders get to emergencies faster. The Dubuque Emergency Communications Center is now using a recorded voice to make that initial call out to first responders.

The Dubuque Emergency Communications Center is now using a recorded voice to make initial calls to first responders. Thursday, June 21, 2017 (Katie Wiedemann/KCRG-TV9)

When an emergency call comes in, Dubuque fire and rescue crews pride themselves on leaving the fire station in record speed.

"The tone goes out, they have 60 seconds to be in the vehicle and out the door," said Dubuque Fire Chief Rick Steines.

But what they say they want to improve is the time between when someone first calls 911 and when the dispatcher sounds the alarm.

Enter Samantha.

She's the newest member of the Dubuque emergency communications dispatch team.

Instead of placing a frantic 911 caller on hold while the dispatcher contacts the fire department, the dispatcher instead types a message while talking with the caller, hits send and Samantha puts out the call to fire crews.

"It takes all of that work off the dispatcher, sends the message actually quicker than the dispatcher can manually," said Steines.

Fire officials say Samantha streamlines the process.

"It always reads the message the exact same order, all the time. It's the exact same voice in the exact same cadence all the time," said Steines.

But Samantha comes with a price tag. The basic system cost the fire department $235,000.

Chief Steines says that's an improvement worth the investment.
"Between 30 and 60 seconds shortening of the time, so that's significant," said Steines.