- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A new automated assistant is helping dispatchers in Lincoln get firefighters and paramedics out to emergencies quicker.

The system, named Samantha, began broadcasting announcements over the city’s 911 radio system on Nov. 28, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2hSgnMw ) reports.

Officials said the $610,000 program is shaving seconds off the department’s response time. The system was bought using a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant with a 10 percent local match.

“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,” dispatcher Carson Coles said. “Now I can dispatch multiple units at one time.”

The stock voice for Samantha that Lincoln bought was created by U.S. Digital Designs, the same company that produced Siri for Apple. Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Eric Jones said Samantha has a kinder, gentler “cardiac-friendly alert tone,” compared to the loud noise that used to alert firefighters.

With Samantha comes electronic signs in Lincoln Fire and Rescue stations that immediately allow crews to see the address and call type being alerted through the audible system.

Lincoln Emergency Communications Center coordinator Julie Righter-Dove said technological upgrades like Samantha won’t pose a threat to dispatchers’ jobs. She said the agencies have been thinking about incorporating digitized systems for about eight years.

“The city is going to continue to grow and dispatchers still manage the calls,” Righter-Dove said. “We’re just giving them a button to automate it.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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