When Carson Coles started dispatching emergencies to Lincoln Fire and Rescue last year, he was limited in some aspects of his work.
"Before, if there was a medical and fire call, I'd have to decide which one was a priority, dispatch that one and then dispatch the other," he said Wednesday. "Now I can dispatch multiple units at one time."
What changed was the addition of an automated dispatching system called Samantha, which began broadcasting announcements over the city's 911 radio system Nov. 28.
Using the system shaves seconds off of response time, city officials say.
"Seconds matter," LFR Battalion Chief Eric Jones said Wednesday during a tour showing off the communications system.
The new $610,000 system, purchased using a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant with a 10 percent local match, also eases the load and stress on busy dispatchers and replaces the loud blare that once alerted firefighters in stations with a kinder, gentler "cardiac-friendly alert tone," Jones said.
Lincoln bought the stock voice created by the company, U.S. Digital Designs. It's a female voice created by the same company that produced the sophisticated Siri for Apple.
Samantha also came with new visual alerts. Small electronic signs in LFR stations let crews immediately see the address and call type being relayed through the audible system.
All of this allows firefighters to do their jobs more efficiently and respond more quickly, which serves the community better, Jones said.
Julie Righter-Dove, coordinator at the Lincoln Emergency Communications Center, said the two agencies have been looking at using digitized systems for about eight years.
Asked if technological advancements like Samantha pose a threat to dispatcher jobs, Righter-Dove said absolutely not.
"The city is going to continue to grow and dispatchers still manage the calls," she said. "We're just giving them a button to automate it."