A new alert for first responders - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

A new alert for first responders


Cumberland (WQOW) - Firefighters and first responders depend on a call from dispatch to alert them to an emergency.

In those moments, seconds matter and a new technology in Barron County helps crews answer the call.

There are many tools in a firefighter's arsenal.

"All these tools and shiny trucks and that aren't anything.  You need the firefighter.  That's why getting them paged to the scene is a very important thing," says Cumberland Fire Department Chief Barry Kuenkel.

Firefighter's pagers alert them to an emergency, which work excellent when they're in town.

"But if you get a few miles out, five, six, seven miles out, you get out of range of the pagers.  You don't hear the call," says Kuenkel.

"But your cell phone has a better ability to be in range," says Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

The eDispatch system solves the pager problem by sending alerts to firefighter's cell phones.

"Technology is the key and there's always a new technology product out there that we're looking to purchase or looking to make it better," says Fitzgerald.

Barron County fire chiefs met and decided this was the answer to ensure emergency crews could respond throughout the county.

"But technology is very expensive," says Fitzgerald.

So Cumberland's fire chief, Barry Kuenkel left the meeting wondering how he could help.

"Thought about it and I went home and was thinking about it and talked to my wife about it.  I said, 'You know, that'd be something that we could handle and we could help out with," says Kuenkel.

Covering the cost to operate this system for the next few years through a family inheritance.

"This affects 44,000 people.  The donation is wonderful and the product so far in the first month has been wonderful," says Fitzgerald.

Helping Cumberland and the county respond when you call for help.

"To me it's just, just a neighborly thing to do," says Kuenkel.

Now the county is hoping other neighbors can ensure the eDispatcher's future.

"Now that we've got it up and running, now that's our next goal is to make sure that it stays in budgets or we find another source of funding," says Fitzgerald.

Cumberland is one of the first rural fire departments in the state to begin using this kind of technology.

This isn't the first community donation the Kuenkel Family has made.

A few years ago, they helped purchase a new fire truck for the Cumberland Fire Department.

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