Deputy Fire Chief Tom Bartlett (right) shows off the new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus purchased by the county with a company representative. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

The last two meetings of the County Board of Commissioners have seen the approval of key pieces for improving public safety.

Fayette County 911 is about to be on the cutting-edge of technology with the approval of a partnership with Carbyne, a national, real-time emergency communication call handling platform and the most advanced public safety technology available for emergency infrastructure.

According to 911 Director Buster Brown, it will improve call duration and prioritization and increase staff efficiency and date management. Most importantly, it will provide live video and text and revolutionize device-based location.

“It gives us live video. When the caller actually calls 911, we automatically get a video of what that phone is showing (if the caller agrees to it with a button prompt),” he said. “Anything that phone is pointed at is going to show in that video. It’s going to help 911 be able to process calls, prioritize calls, and help the responders prepare before they get on scene.”

Brown noted that he often gets asked why 911 couldn’t locate people in the same way as Uber or Domino’s. It was a technological limitation that will be fixed with Carbyne.

“It not only gives us the X-Y coordinates, it gives us the Z, which is the elevation,” said Brown, noting they will be able to pinpoint what floor a caller is on.

Brown said the accuracy in locating is within 3 meters 98 percent of the time, whereas other systems are within 10 meters 80 to 85 percent of the time.

“The location accuracy is going to be vital to get responders on-scene and to those callers much quicker.”

Fayette County 911 will be the first system in North America to pilot Carbyne. Initial testing started in August 2017 and ran through December 2017, with multiple agencies participating. That initial partnership has Carbyne eager to work with Fayette going forward.

“They want to make us the model,” said Brown.

Carbyne is also offering Fayette a steep discount. It would typically cost $387,000 in year one, then $287,000 a year going forward, but Fayette will be charged just $192,000 a year in the five-year contract.

Fully-integrated, Carbyne is what Brown calls the first, and final, step towards “next generation 911.”

“This is something that is coming, and we can either be the leader or we can be a follower,” he said. “I prefer to be a leader.”

At their March 8 meeting, the commissioners approved updating key equipment for Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services with the purchase of new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

“This is the number one safety device that we have for protection of our firefighters,” said Deputy Fire Chief Tom Bartlett.

In addition to replacing worn out equipment, combined with the new air cylinders purchased in 2017, the SCBA updates provide new safety features that were not previously available, including a thermal imaging camera in the face piece.

One of the most important features is the ability to completely decontaminate the unit.

“There’s a big, big, big push for cancer reduction in firefighters, and with the apparatus we have now, there’s not an effective way to completely decontaminate the breathing apparatus,” said Bartlett. “The new one can be decontaminated in a commercial washing machine.”

They will replace SCBA units purchased in 2003. They have reached their designated end-of-life date, and repairs have grown increasingly difficult as many replacement pieces are no longer produced.

“Primarily, this is a public safety piece of equipment that’s necessary to run fire services,” said County Administrator Steve Rapson. “That’s the bottom line.”