Computers in Emergency Vehicles

The most unusual place I found a computer was in the front cabs of NYC ambulances and fire trucks. Many ambulances and other FDNY vehicles have data terminals, sometimes referred to by staff as KDTs. These terminals are connected to the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) back end or server. They can display text, page through screens describing jobs, and display lists of units assigned to a job. Data terminals are installed to reduce load on dispatch staff and to reduce traffic on voice channels. When they work properly, they have a significant operational benefit. A data outage during an occurrence of high call traffic can quickly overrun dispatch and voice channel capacity in cases where a routine level of calls for service requires both data terminals and voice channels. The computers in all New York City ambulances and Fire Department apparatus including engines, ladder trucks, rescue companies and battalion vehicles will be equipped with the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system. AVL utilizes Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology to track the real-time movements of any equipped vehicle, helping dispatchers more accurately deploy emergency resources.

  AVL began in September 2005 as a pilot program with five engine companies on Staten Island and FDNY EMS units on Staten Island and in Southern Brooklyn. Under the system, EMS response times to the most serious medical emergencies were reduced by 33 seconds. By June 30, 2006  all City ambulances participating in the 911 system were fully equipped with AVL. In total, 1,565 Fire and EMS vehicles throughout the City were equipped with AVL at a cost of nearly $50 million.

  Currently, EMS Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) recommends the best EMS unit to deploy based on where ambulances are assigned throughout the City. However, because ambulances are not dispatched from a central location and are able to move within their response areas – AVL is invaluable in providing a real-time update of where resources are actually located. Combined with CAD, AVL is a powerful tool that creates a visual map of where emergency resources are located and their movements.  Using a constellation of 24 satellites orbiting the earth, the AVL system combines GPS technology and street-level mapping to pinpoint the longitude, latitude and course direction of any equipped vehicle.

  Improvements in EMS response times under AVL have been significant. Prior to AVL, during an average four-month period the response time to the most serious life-threatening emergencies was 6 minutes and 55 seconds. After the implementation of AVL, during the same four-month period in the same response areas, the average response time was reduced to 6 minutes and 22 seconds – a 33 second decrease.


5 Responses to “Computers in Emergency Vehicles”

  1. Alex,

    That is amazing that the use of computers has cut down response times by over 30 seconds. I’m sure for many that is the difference between life and death. I had noticed that many Police Officers now have laptops in their vehicles. I know that many of the Policeman that I’ve had in my past HR classes noted that the transition to using networking and computer technology in the car had huge resistance from some of the older people on the force. It requires such a training effort…but in the end it’s completely worth the investment.

    I also saw on the news that Chesterfield county officials have new technology (aerial scanner and a networked laptop) in their cars to catch people who’s liscense plates indicate that they haven’t paid their taxes.

  2. Unfortunately, due to the terrain where my department operates, we cannot use a wireless system in the entire area. We do have some stations that use a mapping system in their first due pieces that shows them the quickest route, hydrants, and other water sources. The system also allows for fire pre-plans to be downloaded for further emergency needs.
    All stations in my areas can receive text alerts to calls before they are dispatched. This allows us to respond before the dispatchers can dispatch the call using the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch).
    We will not be able to fully use technology until the hardware is in place throughout our area. With the shape our economy is currently, it still may be some time before we can get the much upgraded equipment in place.

  3. I think the flip side to quick emergency response through modern technology is a system such as Onstar which can indicate when and where an emergency such as a car accident or heart attack has occurred. At I looked at some of the quick bullets about this great service now available due to advancements in technology. When an automobile is involved in a crash, sensors can give critical details to the response team on call. This is significant if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to give verbal details by mobile phone. I would like to mention some very fascinating facts I did not know about this type of system until I went to this website. A crash report comes up on the emergency response team’s screen which tells the status of the air bag, whether deployed or not. The maximum velocity (speed) at the time of the impact is indicated. Whether or not the vehicle has rolled over or had multiple impacts is indicated. Even the direction of the impact, such as front or rear, is indicated. This type of information is key to those on the way to assist with physical trauma as they race to grab emergency equipment and can determine ahead of time if other emergency service is needed, such as a medical helicopter for transport. Key elements are recorded in real-time details!

  4. […] Computers in Emergency Vehicles, 2008/09/25 at 4:50 […]

  5. […] Computers in Emergency Vehicles by alrosa […]

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