Do it yourself … “CAD dispatch to membership”

Modern Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems provide an email interface (often known as SMTP interface, with that M being for eMail.) Typically a department may request that their communications center (dispatch) assign an email address for them, and that email address receives notifications upon dispatch.

Email Groups

The simplest step to take is to point this email address to a Google Group of members who want dispatch notifications to their device. (Some of our FFs work in locations where their pagers don’t receive signal, but can carry their phone. Knowing that no calls have happened - especially when you cannot respond - is almost as good as knowing when something has happened.)

Email to Text Messaging Gateways

Some folks want SMS/text messaging not email to their device, and we provide that via email to SMS/text messaging gateways. (MMS is a multi-media iteration on SMS, which is “short message service”, aka text messaging.)

# Verizon...
# AT&T...
# Boost
# Metro PCS
# Cricket
# X-Finity

Unfortunately SMS/text messaging gateway (which filter spam) often have a problem with email originating on Google Groups. We send our SMS/text messaging gateway emails directly from our server (avoiding Google Groups) to avoid these spam filters.

We parse our dispatch emails, extract the location (address) and we create a link to Google Maps to allow quick access to directions. (For details see below.)

Station Devices

We created email accounts for our iPads at stations and each receive copies of the emails. By the time responders get to our stations the email is waiting and a click gives map directions (often with turn by turn audio.) Devices typically cache this offline, so directions help even when off WiFi and off cellular network (like most of our district).

That said, responders increasingly use their own phones/devices as well.


For those more technical, read on …

We assigned our dispatch email to a ruby (programming language) script that parses the email content. This next line is the configuration for our SMTP server that says “when mail is received at the server for this address (i.e. dispatch@ ) then “pipe” (send) it to the script context.rb:	|/home/ourfd/context.rb

Our CAD delivers SMTP notifications similarly to the ‘text messages’ sent to our digital pagers, so it is compact/terse. We parse the emails using a regular expression to pattern match and extract parts and pieces. We display those pieces, but also pass the address to an address lookup script:

    /BCFD([0-9]*)-([0-9]*) (.*)ADD:(.*) BLD:(.*) APT:(.*) LOC:(.*)INFO:(.*) TIME:(.*)$/

Our email takes the address and calls:

    email += "{URI.escape(address)},+Our+Town,+CO+OurZip\n"

Which (although an address search) far more often than not allows our membership to click for turn-by-turn directions.


Responserack has this capability built into the Responserack system, however you can Do It Yourself with the technical know-how provided here.

Note: Responserack provides this feature natively. See how Responserack can help your volunteer fire department.
Was this helpful? Please share...

See more information posts, about...

Responserack for Volunteer Fire Departments

Responserack provides services for volunteer fire departments; member information services, incident reporting, NFIRS and so much more.

Responserack Volunteer Fire Department Software