WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County plans to grow its communication network with several neighboring emergency service agencies by adding them to a special dispatch system.
In a release, the county said it will add the Georgetown Fire Department, North Lake Travis Fire Department, Pflugerville Fire Department, Williamson County EMS and Austin/Travis County EMS to its Unify system.
The county estimates those additions will be complete within the next year.
The county described Unify as a cross-jurisdictional system that connects public safety agencies to one another, allowing them to communicate via a bi-directional data-sharing network.
“The Unify system hosted by Williamson County is the only one in the country to not only fully integrate with multiple CAD systems, but also to utilize the bi-directional call transfer and closest-unit dispatching capabilities,” said Richard Semple, chief information officer for Williamson County.
In this system, the county said its dispatch is the hub and other dispatch systems in the region are “spokes” that feed back into the system.
The county has used Unify since 2016 after receiving a federal grant to share data between computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems.
Previously, the system was only being used by fire agencies within the county. It was only recently that Unify was fully implemented for fire responses after the City of Austin and Travis County fire agencies joined the system.
Chris Connealy, senior director of Williamson County Emergency Services, said the project has already succeeded in getting firefighters to scenes more quickly.
He said during the Parmer Lane fire in Cedar Park this summer was where multiple agencies responded fast to the wildfire-turned-structure fire.
“The Cedar Park fire chief has been very involved in all this planning, but even they were just kind of amazed how many units got there so quickly,” Connealy said.
Cedar Park Fire Chief James Mallinger said beyond the Parmer Lane fire, the system has helped callers in his jurisdiction even when his crews are already busy on another call.
“We can identify that hole and move people up to make sure that if there’s another call in that area, we still have a decent response time,” Mallinger said.