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The Mississauga News / Article

Firefighters make quick response to new alarms
The Mississauga News — Wednesday June 3 1998

By Declan Finucane — Staff

Mississauga firefighters claim a new high-tech alarm monitoring system they've implemented will save lives by dramatically reducing the response times of emergency vehicles. Assistant Deputy Chief Kevin Duffy said Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services is the first department in Canada to use "Open Access", a fire notification system that permits alarms from any company to be routed directly into the fire departments computer aided dispatch system. The program which works as an adjunct to the fire departments existing system, eliminates the need for phone calls from alarm companies, notifying fire crews of emergencies, and all of the vital information is received almost instantaneously at the fire station. Fire units can arrive on scene 30-90 seconds quicker - a long time in life or death situations.

Duffy said about 100 customers have signed up with the program and for the past three months fire crews have been using the system.

"This has worked out very well. At worst the system eliminates the phone call (from the alarm company to the fire department) and at best it eliminated the phone call and other delays in notification that sometime occur. It can definitely save lives." said Duffy.

"For the most part, alarm companies respond as quickly as they can but all fire departments have experienced situations where the phone call has been delayed. It doesn't happen often, but often enough."

Open Access is currently available in Mississauga to commercial buildings, high rise apartments, high-rise and low-rise seniors residences, hospitals, city buildings and schools.

The city's two worst fires have involved nursing homes. In 1979, more than 20 people perished in a blaze at Extendicare on the Queensway and in 1995, eight people were killed in a fire at Meadowcroft Retirement Home on Constitution Blvd.

Sara Rooney, administrator at the Constitution Blvd. Meadowcroft facility said she received a letter from the Mississauga Fire and Emergency services explaining the Open Access system. Currently Meadowcroft hasn't subscribed to the program but Rooney said " there is definitely consideration being given to it."

At the initial unveiling of Open Access in September, Mississauga Fire Chief Cyril Hare applauded the merits of the system. "Every second counts in a fire". He said at the time. "We've chosen Open Access because of it's tremendous time-saving capability which translates directly into improved chances for saving lives and minimizing property damage. It's even better than 911 since all the information is relayed without voice communication required in a 911 call.

"We believe we're going to set the model for what should take place across the country. There's no downside to the whole thing - it's all upside".

Open Access was developed by St. Catherines based Fire Monitoring of Canada (FMC), and within one-tenth of a second to nine seconds the system provides the fire department with valuable information such s the location of the alarm, accessibility to the building dispatch route and hydrant locations. Fire officials say another advantage to the system is that the department will respond only to fire alarm signals and be able to downgrade a response in the case of a false alarm.