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Metro Newsroom

Satellite Technology Speeds Ambulance Response

Thursday June 4, 2009

Global Positioning System reports location every 6 seconds; allows deployment of nearest emergency medical unit

Louisville’s 54 EMS ambulances and fly cars are now equipped with Global Positioning Technology that tracks units in real time at MetroSafe dispatch – pinpointing their locations within ten feet so that the closest responders may deployed to each emergency medical call.

Louisville is the first 911 system in Kentucky and one of the first large systems in the nation to use this technology, called Automatic Vehicle Location Global Positioning System (AVL-GPS), throughout its ambulance fleet.

“This system does more than put ambulances on a map,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson. “It enables our 911 dispatchers to literally “see” where the closest ambulance is – shaving times and enhancing patient care. The system emphasizes our commitment to using the latest technology and innovative medical therapies”.

Each device sends a wireless signal to MetroSafe, updating its location every six seconds. When 911 dispatchers need to deploy an ambulance, available units and their current locations are displayed in real time on their computer screens, allowing dispatchers to assign the ambulance nearest the scene.

“When you’re dealing with a heart attack or a cardiac arrest, a minute not only feels like a lifetime – but each passing minute impacts that patient’s survival and recovery,” said Dr. Neal Richmond, director of Louisville Metro EMS. “Using this kind of cutting-edge technology to optimize our strategic deployment and utilization of precious resources ensures we’re giving our community the best possible medical response.”

In the ambulance, the GPS units alert crews to an incoming call and display routing maps guiding the crew to the emergency.

In the past, ambulance crews were assigned standby locations and radioed to dispatchers when they were moving. To get directions to an unfamiliar address, they used paper maps or asked dispatchers for routes. Now, ambulance locations and movements will be directly tracked by the 911 Computer-Aided Dispatch system at MetroSafe.

MetroSafe director Doug Hamilton said the application made an immediate impact in unit deployment by the MetroSafe staff. “The dispatchers are thrilled with the mapping software,” said Hamilton. “Seeing the ambulances on screen in real time is an added assurance that we’re providing the best possible service for our citizens.”

The system cost $435,000, and required a year of careful testing and analysis prior to ‘going live’.