Second Signal on WCSH6 - March 2014
CUMBERLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Ninety-five percent of fire departments in Maine rely on volunteers to help fill their ranks, but keeping in contact with members is difficult, especially when many people no longer work in the town where they live.
Volunteer fire fighter, Andrew Pollack, says few businesses mind when an employee leaves to help battle a fire, but "few bosses are going to be comfortable with somebody leaving work 3, 4, 5 times a week that turns out to be nothing."
"How do I quickly give them a way to know if it is something he needs to leave for?" he wondered.
Pollack, who's full-time job is developing software, invented Second Signal as a way to provide valuable information in a cost-effective and timely manner.
The system, which requires only a computer connected to the internet and a scanner, calls members every time there is a tone for help over the two-way radio. Members call in to Second Signal and can listen to the radio traffic that has come in.
"What happens is they are going to get put into the recorded audio stream at the very point where that call came in," he explained.
The program eliminates the dead air between transmissions, so first responders and quickly get caught up and determine if they are needed to help out.
"When our tones go off, it activates our phones," stated Yarmouth Fire Chief Michael Robitaille. "We can access it anywhere we are. If I am out of state, I can access it."
Robitaille says the system is much better than radios and pagers, because members can control when they get the info and not have it tone out in the middle of a meeting. He also says cell phones also have a much better range than radios.
"It provides a valuable training tool to us also," said Robitaille. "We are able to take that audio and play it back to our staff. We use it in the management scheme of things where, during our officers meetings, we'll review what we call our low frequency type incidents that have a high risk to our staff and we can basically dissect those calls so that we can learn from them."
Pollack says about twenty fire departments from throughout New England, and as far away as Texas and Arizona, currently use Second Signal.
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