02/23/10 214 W, 1 I - + 9 - 7 MDCs and AVLs and Fire Departments

While we continue discussing old-school dispatching in this prior posting, here's an open thread on mobile data consoles (MDCs) or mobile data terminals (MDTs), as well as automatic vehicle locators (AVL) as they are or could be used by fire departments in Raleigh, Wake County, and surrounding areas. Mobile consoles are already here. Cary rides with 'em. Raleigh's installed a couple so far, plus those in Battalion Chief''s vehicles. Morrisville has 'em, and Apex is getting them. Who else? (And how are they used, and how well are they working?)

Next question, AVL. The Wake County EMS System effectively utilizes automatic vehicle location because, among other things, all ambulances are apples to apples. They're all paramedic ambulances, and each with minimum staffing. Enable AVL for fire departments and some service levels or unit criteria would probably be required. You'd want a minimum staffing assurance, so you get the same water + tools + people no matter where a fire unit was automatically located. Uh oh, might have crossed into dying horse territory there! Next obvious question is jurisdictions, and implications therein. Wonder if AVL is better within a single district (or system), than across multiple? e.g., fine for Raleigh or Cary, but maybe more challenging across multiple departments?

That would require the county to use it’s singular fire tax district, take true control of all the county departments, bring us all up to minimum staffing, and rename all the departments. Not to mention making sure all the “equal” apparatus have all the same minimum tools, equipment, pump and water capacity, and standardizing all the apparatus to be able to move personnel seamlessly between stations like they do with EMS. It would effectively eliminate volunteerism within the county and would cost more than the county has or is willing to spend. And I’ve probably only covered *half of what it would entail.

As for jurisdictional lines, since most stations abutting municipalities have M/A or closest-unit agreements (if not all of us), I doubt boundary lines would be an issue. Rather, for example, if WWP196 is out for dinner on Lake Boone Trail and RE14 is out of quarters on another call, if a call comes in that WWP196 is closer to according to the CAD and AVL, why not send that unit rather than the next closest RFD unit? I’m sure our Medical Director would agree with that on medical calls, and property owners would agree with it in a fire-suppression or property conservation situation. It could be good OR bad.

I think it would be the minimum staffing per unit and minimum equipment ability issues that would be the greater factors in the equation. But that’s just *my opinion.
Duda - 02/24/10 - 10:12

Having MDC/MDT units in fire apparatus is absolutely necessary, especially in a system as busy as Wake County. We use MDTs in Charlotte and it is worth every penny. You have the exact address, nature, units on the call, maps, directions, hydrant locations, hazards, even pre-plans right at your finger tips. No having to flip pages in the map or pre-plan book, or ciphering what the dispatcher (or locution) gave as the street address, and all the updates that are put into CAD right in front of you. Updates are also an issue here as we too don’t get all the updates that MEDIC gets in their computers; we also don’t stage.

AVL has its pros and cons. I think it’s great when CAD picks the closest unit that’s out of the station when a call comes in. One of the downsides to AVL is that the “closest unit” is not always the “closest unit”. CAD might say a unit is faster as the crow flies, but it doesn’t take into account a better routing, known short cuts, traffic, residential streets vs faster, wider streets, etc;. I know this is going to sound like the “this is my area” argument, but there a lot of times, that AVL says another unit is closer, even though it is in our area, but we can smoke that company in all day long in the real world due to the above reasons. When units are responding from quarters, they are strategically placed to cover designated areas the fastest. AVL is best when there are no designated locations to respond from, IE: MEDIC, who doesn’t have stations, just stages units where coverage is needed.

I definately agree with Duda about staffing, training, equipment, etc; but that horse has been beaten several times.
Rides An Engine - 02/24/10 - 12:27

Here is a question that may start a whole new issue… If you have AVL, can you get the “system” to recognize that a unit is second due to a call and divert them to a more pressing call? For instance, I ride Engine 4, and we are responding 2nd due with Engine 5 to a fire alarm. Low priority call verses say a code blue. The code blue comes in and we are closer by several miles due to the fire alarm in progress, however, we do not get the call or even hear it unless we keep a radio on dispatch and jump it. Is there a system out there that is smart enough to divert Engine 4 to the code blue and send another engine 2nd due to Engine 5?
Donaldson - 02/25/10 - 00:24

I like having the capabilities of the MDT. With that said, I don’t like the way they are mounted in the E450 chassis- I personally believe them to be a safety hazard. It’s an obstruction to the driver’s view, as well as an obstruction to the passenger. But, they are mounted where they need to be mounted, so until we can all get Freightliner, Navistar, or Spartan chassis ambulances, it will have to do.

My only real gripe with the MDTs (and the call report computers) is that we are not using them to their full potential. I would like to see some sort of pre-plan software in the EMS MDTs (that maybe coming, I don’t know), as well as some sort of photograph display on the navigation software. Maybe the USDOT ERG program. Maybe some sort of real-time traffic condition and weather access.

It would be nice to also have the treatment protocols loaded into the PCR laptops. Maybe some sort of reference materials.

Just thinking off of the top of my head here…..
DJ - 02/25/10 - 00:37

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