PEI

Texting could help firefighters' response

P.E.I. firefighters are hopeful a new computer program allowing them to communicate via texting will get them on the scene of fires up to five minutes earlier.

P.E.I. volunteer firefighters are hopeful a new computer program allowing them to communicate via texting will get them on the scene of fires up to five minutes earlier.

The program, called I am Responding, sends out a mass text to firefighters in the event of a fire or other incident, and the responses are shown on a computer terminal at the station and on a large television screen.

A firefighter using the I am Responding texting program. (Julia Cook/CBC)

Fire Chief Bob Morrison of the North Shore Fire Department said it not only allows him to know who is responding, but when and how they are getting to the scene.

"It also allows us to be better organized when we're on the scene when we first arrive," said Morrison.

"Every minute is an eternity when you're waiting for a fire department to arrive."

Tim Jenkins, president of the P.E.I. Firefighters Association, said the Island still needs a more dependable radio system, but this program helps fill the gap.

"If the radios do completely break down … you can tell there is still firefighters responding to that call," said Jenkins.

"We absolutely do need better radio systems on the Island. We're still working on that project but it's a much more expensive project."

Island fire departments pay between $35 and $65 a month to subscribe to I am Responding, and about 80 per cent of them are now using it.

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