New Fire Department Dispatch System Unveiled


Over one million residents are served by the Verdugo Fire Communications System. This fire department communications hub takes in 911 calls and assigns fire engines and firefighters to respond to the call. Anytime a call comes in from Alhambra, Arcadia, Burbank, the Hollywood Burbank Airport, Glendale, Montebello, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre or South Pasadena areas, it is routed through the VFC office. The office then sends out the alert to the responding agency, which gets an address that firefighters look up on a map tacked to the wall of the station house.

“And for those of us who grew up looking at a map book, if you remember what a Thomas Brothers Map Book was – an old paper map book – that coupled with a wall map at the fire station is how we knew where we were going,” said Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas of the Glendale Fire Dept.

In an age of GPS and mobile phones giving guided navigation, the thought that first responders had to rely on a Thomas Brothers Map Book in 2020 may be shocking. It was time for an upgrade.

“After about a two-and-a-half year process of implementation, build, training and all the things that are required to go into a transition to a new system like the one we did [last week], we went live with the new program,” Lanzas said. “It’s essentially a state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system that integrates GPS mapping, routing and 911 call location to the 13 agencies that are dispatched by the Verdugo Fire Communication Center, obviously one of which is the Glendale Fire Department. We spent the last couple of years working with Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the computer dispatch system. It is an upgrade from our previous system; we were also with Northrop before. The best way that I could describe it is we’ve been on a 30-year-old CAD that, if you remember what a DOS computer was like, was what our CAD basically was. It was an old system that was very, very cumbersome to provide updates, to be nimble, to react to different types of dispatches. If we wanted to, for example, dispatch two Glendale fire engines to a certain call and one Alhambra engine to that same call, we didn’t have that capability with our old CAD. With this CAD, we have that capability and more.”

It not only allows for GPS navigation now, but the system has expandable functionality for the future to prevent another 30-year freeze in technology. The system could be expanded to have access to open network security cameras in the area to give first responders and dispatchers a look at the incident before rolling out. And with fillable data fields attributed to the specific location, it can have a pre-loaded and customizable response scenario to be even more prepared for whatever may come up.

“We could potentially, and one of the goals that I’ve set, look at every single building in the city of Glendale and incorporate the appropriate dispatch based on the type of building, the height of the building, the size of the building, what the building is used for,” Lanzas said. “As an example, if we have a commercial building that houses, let’s say a propane tank farm. That may require a very different dispatch for a fire at that location than say a building that’s the same size but houses cotton manufacturing or something that’s less flammable and less dangerous. So this system allows us to do that.”

For Chief Lanzas, there is a small modicum of jealousy that he has spent his time responding to fires with a tacked paper map and the current class of firefighters gets a shiny new system, but in the end he says its all about serving the public better and more efficiently when every second counts.

“You always want do it better for the people who you are working for,” Lanzas said. “So we’re able to do that and we’re excited about the partnership and the capabilities that this brings for us.”