KATY/SPRING (Covering Katy) – Fire and emergency medical service response in virtually all of Katy’s unincorporated areas just took a big step forward with the Willowfork Fire Department joining the same 911 dispatch service used by several other fire and EMS services in the Katy area.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Willowfork F.D. began utilizing the Cypress Creek EMS Communication Center. Willowfork formerly used the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office dispatch center.
With the Cypress Creek systems, computers know where every piece of equipment is located. If one station does not have trucks available, the system will automatically redirect the call to the next closest station with available apparatus. It's a very quick process.
"As soon as it gets entered into the computer it gets dispatched," said Cypress Creek EMS Communication Center spokesman Norm Uhl.
"It's all about getting the right amount of equipment to the call," said Willowfork Fire Department Chief Billy Wilson.
The Cypress Creek dispatchers are at a building located in Spring, but being 40 miles away is irrelevant because the computers have already been programmed to know where the call is, and what amount and type of equipment to send.
"We are using computer aided dispatch, so it really does not matter where we are," said Uhl.
The map of each community is broken into blocks, and from those blocks the computer knows how to respond.
If firefighters get on the scene and report the flames are more or less intense than expected, the system can quickly react and change the amount of equipment that's being dispatched to the call. Incident commanders are not burdened with figuring out which stations have available equipment; the system already knows. This frees incident commanders of the burden of determining where the next trucks can come from which allows them to react more quickly to unfolding emergencies happening on the ground.
"It helps my commanders focus on the task at hand," Chief Wilson said.
When incident commanders are calling for more equipment the system allows them to see how close that equipment is to arriving. Knowing if a fire truck is one mile away, or one block away, is vital when incident commanders are strategizing their next lifesaving move.
The Cypress Creek EMS dispatch service also provides an extra level of service.
"We also get a dedicated dispatcher on all major calls," Wilson said.
The dedicated dispatcher is charged with monitoring the entire call and making sure that crews on the ground meet all of their benchmarks, like remembering to clear a building of people and pets within a certain period of time.
"Most of our benchmarks are about our own safety," Wilson said.
There are numerous Katy-area fire departments that protect the unincorporated areas that are also using the Cypress Creek EMS dispatch service. Having numerous local fire departments using the same dispatch service improves efficiency, according to Wilson. It allows several departments to more easily serve each other through mutual aid. If Willowfork runs out of available trucks the system will know if the Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department has trucks available or if they need to dispatch the Community Volunteer Fire Department.
The other Katy-area fire departments that use the dispatch services of Cypress Creek EMS include the Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department, the Westlake Fire Department and the Community Volunteer Fire Department.
"Cypress Creek EMS now handles dispatch for 17 emergency agencies in Harris, Ft. Bend and Brazoria counties," Uhl said. "We specialize in fire and EMS. We do not do law enforcement," Uhl added.
The 17 agencies that utilize Cypress Creek EMS dispatch services are:
The Spring Fire Department
Ponderosa Fire Department
Cypress Creek EMS
Cypress Creek Fire Department
Little York Fire Department
Klein Fire Department
Champions – ESD 29
Harris County ESD 48 Fire-EMS-Rescue
Westlake Fire Department
Community Volunteer Fire Department
Harris County Fire Marshal
Harris County Hazardous Materials
South East Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC)
Emergency Medical Task Force 6 (EMTF6)
Pearland Fire Department
Stafford Fire Department
Willowfork Fire Department.