Emergency vehicles are rigged with GPS

The movement of ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars is now being monitored live. A new fleet-management tool was introduced on Monday, 17 August, to enhance emergency vehicle response capability.

Emergency vehicles on GPS system

Emergency vehicles on GPS system. Photo: Submitted

‘The Global Positioning System technology installed in the first-responder units now allow 911 operators to dispatch officers and medics with the benefit of knowing where they are prior to dispatch, saving valuable seconds in an emergency,’ said Assistant Deputy Chief Secretary Eric Bush.

Mr. Bush said that unit performance is being monitored and evaluated, with positive results thus far.

‘In an emergency, time is of the essence. A faster response can mean the difference between life and death,’ he said.

The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs contracted local company Sat-Trak to provide the equipment and one year’s worth of data. The contract can be extended thereafter. While Sat-Trak offers technical support, the system is managed by government employees.

This system is now installed in 42 vehicles on Grand Cayman, with preparations under way for eight more to receive the technology.

The decision to use the GPS equipment follows last year’s evaluation of electronic tracking devices in local vehicles. The system uses a high-tech combination of GPS, satellite map overlays, the tracking of vehicle movements and the transmission of key information every 30 seconds, or every 100 meters.

Lands and Survey’s Geographic Information System is also utilised, with the map system providing on-screen display of house numbers and other information relevant to emergency telecommunicators and first-responders.

Mr. Hal Ebanks, the EMS’ acting manager, welcomed this development, saying, ‘Sat-Trak will be beneficial as it provides paramedics in the responding units with up-to-the-minute information regarding the location of an incident. This can be vital, as every moment counts during an emergency.’

Mr. Ebanks added, ‘Another key feature is that the fleet management and maintenance information can be utilized to project vehicle usage and life-span based on the data collected.’

Information is transmitted from vehicles to the 911 centre using cellular technology. The 911 system dispatches all emergency vehicles.

Emergency Communications Manager Brent Finster said that the primary advantage of the system’s capability is that it allows staff who are monitoring the vehicles on computer screens to dispatch the closest appropriate vehicle to the specific emergency situation, and to monitor the response.

The system retains historical data for a period of time, facilitating useful historical references. Printed reports are also possible. Officials note that these features should also enhance Freedom of Information options, as well as meet possible legal requirements.

In addition to vehicle locations, Sat-Trak indicates whether or not a vehicle is running, and if it is moving, it reports the route and speed. The system can also isolate a particular emergency service provider even when it is part of a group.

Further, as well as vehicle beacons, every emergency service using the system has in place a perimeter alert. This advises dispatchers every time vehicles enter or leave their respective compounds.