A New Voice Calls Peoria Firefighters Into Action

Dec 5, 2017

File photo, November 13, 2017.
Credit Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

  The Peoria Fire Department has a new emergency alert system. It’s an automated voice that makes the initial pronouncement for EMS and fire calls. Peoria Public Radio’s Tanya Koonce reports on the voice teaming up with human 911 dispatchers:

 


The automated alert system is from a company called Locution. The automated voice you might initially hear on a scanner is certainly different, even though it’s the voice of a real person. Her name is Debbie. She’s a music teacher from Wisconsin.

Peoria Assistant Fire Chief Ed Olehy looks on in the background as Peoria's Emergency Communications Center Manager Dave Tuttle produces a picture of Debbie. It's her voice that's used in Peoria's new alert system from the company called Locution.
Credit Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

  Assistant Fire Chief Ed Olehy says working with Debbie to get localized pronunciations for the automation made all the difference in the department’s decision to go with Locution. “If it was a weird street you know Main is easy. But if you get down to Louisa or Hurlburt, you know the digital sound didn’t come out like that. We’re able to call Debbie up and say, ‘look we need this to be pronounced THIS way,’ so all of our people know who it is and she can go back and phonetically say it, just how we do it here in the city of Peoria. So it’s that personalized, which makes it so much better than a normal system for us.”  

The Debbie’s automated voice is triggered when the 911 operator receives a call and types in the specific, initial details. The dispatcher codes the message and the automated announcement is dispatched to the 12 Peoria firehouses.

Peoria Fire Chief Chuck Lauss says they are, “anticipating anywhere from 20-40 seconds of reduction of time with this new system. Because it goes out to all of the stations at the same time. And it reduces that time lag of having to dispatch each station individually.”

Chief Lauss says the automated system also offers something called a day/night switch. He says the night switch can only be applied in overnight hours.  “If a  certain station put it on nights and every station around them was running all night long and they only had one call in the middle of the night, that is the call they would hear unless it was a fire call. If there is a structure fire. Then all the station open up so they hear what’s going on with the structure fire. It will make a tremendous impact on their health.”  

Locution is the Colorado based company that the Peoria Fire Department is using for its alerting system. It replaces a 30 year-old system.

Lauss says the new automated alerting system also has the flexibility it can host other components. The system can automate the lights, shut-off the stove and open the garage doors. Those are all matters that help increase firefighter safety and save time.

Four Peoria stations currently have the capability of receiving some of the additional automation components. The new altering technology costs about $315,000. It’s taken about a month to install and been live on the air for about two weeks. It replaces the city’s 30-year-old system.