Those who listen to public safety activity over a scanner sometimes ask, “Why is a robot dispatching for fire?”

It’s actually not a robot; it’s fire station alerting!

Fire station alerting is how the dispatcher tells the appropriate unit or department about the location and type of emergency. This allows a firefighter in the field or at the station to not have to be on “radio watch” listening to every call for the possibility that his/her specific unit or department is involved.

In recent history, fire station alerting has been called “toning,” referring to the audible tones generated by the dispatcher. These tones serve many purposes, the more familiar ones are activating speakers inside the station, turning on the overhead lights at night, and opening the fire station doors. In volunteer fire departments, the same tones activate a pager or portable radio to provide the appropriate alert notification to the correct staff members.

The fire station alerting system used by South Sound 911 allows for an automated dispatch message, and the selection and generation of tones is also an automated process. A computer-generated voice for call announcement standardizes volume, voice inflection, and accents. Overall, the automated system reduces the reliance on the primary fire dispatcher to select the appropriate tone and verbally announce the call for service.