City eyes new emergency response tracking system

The City of Knoxville wants to make responding to emergencies more efficient and safe by purchasing a new electronic tracking system for responders and support agencies.

The system would allow firefighters, police officers, contractors, and support agencies on the scene of emergencies to check-in using electronic ID badges. Information about their location and task would then be stored on a server that would be accessible to the leaders of all agencies on the scene.

Currently, the Knoxville Fire Department has a low-tech system in place to track people. Firefighters are required to hook their ID badge to a key ring when leaving the truck. The incident commander later collects those badges and charts who is on the scene on a white board.

KFD Assistant Fire Chief Brent Seymour says he would welcome the new system.

"You've got a lot of resources and a lot of personnel that congregate in the area at one time," said Seymour. "You're able to track where your resources are."

The system is not designed to be a life saving tool, but rather an organizational one, according to Emergency Management Agency Director Alan Lawson.

For example, it wouldn't be able to pinpoint a firefighter's location if he or she became incapacitated while fighting a fire. But Seymour says being able to access information at the click of a button about who is on a scene and what their job is helps keep track of people during chaotic situations.

The server would also keep tabs on equipment, like defibrillators or ladders. Skill sets would also be logged, enabling commanders to identify people with special qualifications quickly, like heavy machinery operators or rescue specialists.

Lawson says the program would also help streamline communication with the federal government. He says they could use the data to apply for federal disaster declarations.

City council is scheduled to vote on the matter on Tuesday. Grant money would fund the $149,00 price tag, according to the agenda. That would include purchasing the hardware, software, training, and two years of operational costs.


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