Fire Industry Today: GPS Fleet Tracking Expedites Emergency Response, Increases Driver Accountability

When every second counts to save lives, dispatchers must immediately locate the medical, fire/rescue, or police vehicle closest to the emergency, and the driver must respond as quickly as possible without getting lost or taking detours.

Today, this requires using a fleetwide vehicle GPS tracking system, which can expedite emergency dispatching and response by providing the real-time location of every vehicle in the fleet on a 24/7 basis. Such technology can also improve vehicle dispatch routing and management when historical records can be consulted to determine which routes are the most efficient.

In addition, implementing real-time GPS tracking can increase a driver’s accountability, making him less inclined to take unauthorized excursions, such as for personal errands, when not on a call. This can help to minimize unnecessary vehicle mileage, fuel use, and wear and tear. On the plus side, GPS tracking can also be used to recognize and reward consistently rapid employee response.

To examine the benefits of using a fleetwide vehicle GPS tracking system, I discussed the advantages of this approach with Ben VanAvery, director of sales and marketing at Advanced Tracking Technologies (ATTI), a Houston, Texas, based designer and manufacturer of GPS tracking products.

How can GPS fleet tracking expedite emergency response?

Withreal-time GPS system accuracy and coverage, fleet trackers can help ensure that emergency responders end up at the correct location, whether local, regional, or out of state, without wasteful detours.

Today, such systems can track fleet vehicles in essentially real time, which allows dispatchers to send the closest vehicle to the emergency at all times.

Compared with typical GPS tracking devices that may only update every few minutes, advanced systems provide real-time location updates every 10 seconds as well as location, speed, and idle time alerts if something is amiss. This data is transmitted via satellite and cellular networks to a smartphone or PC on a 24/7 basis. The system has access to nationwide speed limits in its database.

A PC Web site link or smartphone app can display the real-time location of the entire vehicle fleet on a map, allowing a dispatcher or manager to zoom in on any specific truck. At a glance, this allows dispatchers to see if a truck is moving (displays green) or stopped (displays red). If the dispatcher touches a truck icon, the app will display where the truck has been, where it stopped, and how long it has idled. All this helps with on-the-fly coordination.

With such real-time GPS tracking, dispatchers can immediately see where any ambulance crew is on a map and provide turn-by-turn guidance to get them to the scene of the emergency without delay. This is particularly helpful in areas with poor radio coverage, since the GPS provides constantly updated location information, so accurate driving assistance can be provided with a minimal need for back and forth conversation.

How else can GPS fleet tracking improve emergency response?

If an ambulance ever breaks down, the system enables the dispatcher to quickly send a mechanic or another ambulance crew to quickly transfer the patient and transport him to the nearest medical facility.

In instances of emergency disaster relief or evacuation, it is also a big plus to have the whereabouts of the entire fleet visually available via a GPS tracking system so the closest vehicle can always rapidly respond.

Because getting to the emergency scene faster is critical to saving lives, emergency medical services (EMS) managers can compare the historical records of how units respond to the same location/facility to note which is more efficient. So, EMS managers can audit response times to improve them with better routing. With a GPS vehicle tracking system, it is easy to pull reports based on location and time to see which crews are traveling fixed trips faster than others. By comparing these, EMS managers can figure out which routes are better and try to implement these with their fleets when possible.

This sort of best-practice benchmarking is particularly useful if an EMS fleet is also responsible for more routine nonemergency patient transportation to certain locations, which may occur over weeks or months.

How can GPS fleet tracking help to ensure driver accountability?

Such GPS vehicle tracking systems and reporting also help to increase driver accountability if any crews tend to wander off to unauthorized locations, which could otherwise slow both emergency and nonemergency pick up/drop off.

When doing audits, EMS managers can focus on ensuring that crew members accurately tell what time they arrive or leave the scene. A GPS vehicle tracking system allows comparison with the GPS arrival/departure times to ensure that everyone is being honest.

On the plus side, when an emergency crew puts in a lot of work or completes a really hard out-of-town work shift, the GPS tracking system can flag that too. So, the extra effort can be recognized as well.

Using a fleetwide vehicle GPS tracking system can expedite emergency dispatching and response by providing the real-time location of every vehicle in the fleet on a 24/7 basis.

1 Using a fleetwide vehicle GPS tracking system can expedite emergency dispatching and response by providing the real-time location of every vehicle in the fleet on a 24/7 basis. (Photo courtesy of Advanced Tracking Technologies.)

Any other benefits to GPS fleet tracking?

Such a system often leads to more efficient routing and more accountable drivers, which results in significant savings in gas and time. It helps drivers to take more efficient routes, which enables drivers to take more emergency calls or do more nonemergency transports.

Finally, from a legal and an insurance standpoint, the GPS vehicle tracking can be helpful as well. When necessary, EMS managers can pull data to show the actual time the ambulance crew got to a facility. This can show the crew made a best effort when drivers were properly en route but stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. If there is ever an accident, auto insurance companies often like to have the GPS vehicle tracking information because it helps to justify that the EMS crew did the right thing.

JEFF ELLIOTT is a Torrance, California, based technical writer. He has researched and written about industrial technologies and issues for the past 20 years.

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