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Amherst Fire Department website adds user friendly components and live audio feed

(Collegian File Photo)

The Amherst Fire Department’s website now allows users to browse weekly and annual reports along with a live audio feed. The update, launched on June 29, allows for an interactive site, providing more than just applications for permits and licenses to users.

Call summaries are now easy to access and provide statistics regarding the work being done by the department. The weekly summaries recap the total Fire and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) runs and which vehicles were sent out. The annual call summary gives information from the past five years, which includes the number of total emergency responses, fire responses, station coverage requests, ambulance responses and fire inspections/prevention.

The “Listen Live” feature connects users to the department’s radio channel where they can listen to ambulances and fire trucks being dispatched as well as information regarding storms and the weather. The scanner can be used on computers, cell phones and other devices with an internet connection.

Tom Valle, a representative for labor union Local 1764—which represents full-time firefighters who work for AFD—explained how the “Listen Live” feature works.

“[The] audio feed available on the Amherst Fire Department’s website allows the public to listen to one of several radio frequencies used by the department on a daily basis. This frequency is the Fire Department’s primary frequency, meaning it is the main frequency used to dispatch crews to emergencies,” Valle said.

“Crews often change to secondary frequencies while operating on scenes in order to keep the primary frequency clear for additional emergencies…Once information is broadcast, it enters the public domain and can be heard by anyone with access to a scanner,” he added.

In regards to the new update, Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren said, “Our main drive was just to make it possible for those who are interested in the public or the media to get information a little bit easier.”

Similarly, Matthew Marchand, who runs the Northampton Fire Rescue website and Facebook page, explained the importance of accessibility of information to the public.

“Accessibility is very important, as we are a public service agency and serve the public. They need to be able to get the information they want quickly and easily…At this time, we utilize Facebook for the majority of our outreach and use the website for documents and larger updates,” Marchand said.

Stromgren explained how they are in the process of adding automatic live updates to the website, making information even easier to find; however, the technical component still remains challenging.

“We are overall just trying to make the site a bit more dynamic…and interactive for people so they come here more often and see our news and announcements,” Stromgren said.

The “News and Announcements” section of the website includes information about the season and upcoming events, such as fireworks and open air burning, as well as housekeeping updates, like online bill payments and added reports. Updates to this section are added every few weeks.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at acharpentier@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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